Cytokines secreted in response to invading micro-organisms are important mediators of detrimental hemodynamic and metabolic changes in the host. To test whether cachectin/TNF plays a role in triggering release of other cytokines in the setting of infection, anesthetized baboons were passively immunized against systemic cachectin/TNF before infusion of a LD100 dose of live Escherichia coli. Bacteremia led to significant increases in circulating levels of cachectin/TNF, IL-1 beta, and IL-6. Although bacterial endotoxin/lipopolysaccharide is a potent stimulus for the synthesis and release of IL-1 and IL-6 in vitro, specific neutralization of cachectin/TNF in vivo with mAb pretreatment significantly attenuated both the IL-1 beta and the IL-6 responses despite fulminant overwhelming bacteremia. These data suggest that cachectin/TNF is essential for the initiation or amplification of IL-1 and IL-6 release during lethal gram-negative septic shock syndrome.