Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and Fas ligand (FasL) play major roles in the homeostasis of the peripheral immune system. This becomes dramatically obvious in the absence of a functional FasL. Mice with such a deficiency develop a profound lymphadenopathy, splenomegaly, hypergammaglobulinemia, and strain-dependent systemic autoimmune disease, and succumb to premature death. It is consequently termed generalized lymphoproliferative disorder (gld). By contrast, TNF deficiency alone does not result in a striking phenotype. Thus, we sought to determine what role TNF might play in contributing to the gld phenotype by creating C57BL/6.gld.TNF(-/-) mice. Contrary to the expected outcome, mice deficient for both FasL and TNF had a substantially milder gld phenotype with regard to mortality, lymphoaccumulation, germinal center formation, and hypergammaglobulinemia. To confirm these data in a strain highly permissive for the phenotype, C3H/HeJ.gld and C3H.HeJ.lpr mice were treated with a TNF-specific monoclonal antibody. This transient neutralization of TNF also resulted in a significantly attenuated lymphoproliferative phenotype. We conclude that TNF is necessary for the full manifestation of the lymphoproliferative disorder, in particular playing a critical role in lymphoaccumulation. Most importantly, absence of TNF protects gld mice against premature death.