We administered a neutralizing monoclonal antibody to tumor necrosis factor (TNF) during infection with Candida albicans in normal and granulocytopenic mice. Mice were rendered granulocytopenic (less than 0.1 x 10(9) granulocytes per liter) with cyclophosphamide. Growth of C. albicans from the kidneys was significantly increased in normal mice treated with the antibody to TNF, compared with that in control mice, after 36 h (3.6 x 10(4) +/- 1.2 x 10(4) CFU per kidney versus 9.1 x 10(3) +/- 6.2 x 10(3) CFU per kidney; P less than 0.05) and after 72 h (3.7 x 10(6) +/- 2.7 x 10(6) CFU per kidney versus 2.3 x 10(4) +/- 1.3 x 10(4) CFU per kidney; P less than 0.01). In granulocytopenic mice, the antibody to TNF had no effect on the growth of C. albicans from the kidneys. Furthermore, our study showed that the cytokines TNF and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were produced in a dose-dependent manner during C. albicans infection. TNF was detectable between 6 and 60 h, with peak levels at 24 h. Both TNF and IL-6 levels were significantly higher in cyclophosphamide-treated mice than in normal mice. Heat-inactivated C. albicans induced a TNF response different from that induced by viable C. albicans, with an early peak occurring at 3 to 4 h and declining to non-detectable levels after 15 to 24 h. Peak levels of TNF obtained with heat-inactivated C. albicans were lower than those obtained with viable C. albicans. Our study demonstrates that TNF and IL-6 are produced systemically during C. albicans infection and suggests that TNF is essential for granulocyte antifungal activity in vivo.