Tumor necrosis factor (TNF alpha), both by direct action and by trafficking cells of the immune system, is implicated in cardiopulmonary derangements and PMN-mediated microvascular injury associated with gram-negative sepsis. We examined the effects of pretreatment with a monoclonal antibody to TNF alpha on PMN function, hemodynamic derangements, and alveolar capillary membrane damage in a septic porcine model. Anti-TNF alpha profoundly improved hemodynamic consequences in this model. Reduction in PMN CD11/18 receptor expression, lung myeloperoxidase activity, and attenuation of peripheral neutropenia (all P < 0.05) indicate that pretreatment significantly reduced lung sequestration of PMNs seen in septic controls. In contrast, PMN oxygen radical (O2-) generation was not significantly different from unprotected septic animals. Despite the presence of circulating PMNs primed for O2- burst, alveolar capillary membrane damage, assessed by bronchoalveolar lavage protein content and arterial PO2 was markedly attenuated in the treatment group (P < 0.05). We conclude that anti-TNF alpha suppresses systemic hemodynamic actions of TNF alpha. Further, it prevents upregulation of PMN adhesion receptors inhibiting PMN/endothelial cell interaction. This prevents formation of a "microenvironment," protected from circulating oxidant scavengers, into which sepsis-activated PMNs release their toxic products. Pretreatment with anti-TNF alpha monoclonal antibody thus affords global protection in porcine Gram-negative sepsis.