Recombinant human tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF) administered i.v. to Lewis rats as a daily low dose for 1 week induces an erythroid hyperplasia of late normoblasts. Although the erythroid marrow compartment is hyperplastic, the morphology of the normoblasts is dysplastic and there is no accompanying increase in circulating red blood cells, suggesting a state of ineffective erythropoiesis. TNF administered on the same daily schedule as a high dose induces an erythroid hypoplasia of late normoblasts and a peripheral anemia with decreases in the hematocrit and hemoglobin. A tremendous myeloid hyperplasia is noted in rats treated with high-dose TNF, and the mechanism of the erythroid anemia may be in part due to the increase in neutrophils. In support of the hypothesis that the erythroid anemia may be partly myelophthisic in nature, a decrease in marrow lymphocytes was also noted. On the other hand, the dysplastic morphology of the late erythroid precursors in rats treated with low-dose TNF would also be consistent with a destructive effect of TNF on erythroid precursors as a mechanism of TNF-related anemia. In light of the in vitro inhibitory effects of TNF on erythropoiesis and myelopoiesis as reported by previous investigators, the erythroid and myeloid hyperplasia noted in vivo most likely represent indirect effects.