The clinical application of adenoviral gene therapy currently is impeded by the potent host immune response to the virus, which limits the duration of its effects. In these studies, we investigated the role of TNF-alpha and of a soluble TNF receptor (TNF-bp) in the inflammatory response and expression of a lacZ-expressing adenovirus (AdCMVlacZ) in the liver and lung of mice. The expression of the recombinant adenovirus was studied in mouse liver and lung by determining the activity of the lacZ gene product of the adenovirus. The mononuclear cell inflammatory response was determined histologically at different times after intravenous or intranasal administration of AdCMVlacZ. The cytotoxic T cell and antibody response to the adenovirus was determined. Treatment with TNF-bp reduced circulating levels of TNF-alpha, greatly reduced the inflammatory response, and resulted in prolonged expression of lacZ for up to 30 days in the liver and lung after either intravenous or intranasal administration of adenovirus. Treatment with TNF-bp had no effect on anti-adenovirus antibodies and induction of cytotoxic T cells 30 days after administration of AdCMVlacZ. These results indicate that TNF-alpha is the primary factor driving the early inflammatory response leading to elimination of adenovirus-infected cells in the liver and lung and that TNF-bp is capable of inhibiting these effects.