Glycoprotein Ib alpha (GpIb alpha) is a platelet membrane Gp that binds von Willebrand factor and mediates platelet adhesion to subendothelium. We have found both GpIb alpha mRNA and protein in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). In previously published work we reported that combined treatment with interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) markedly increased the GpIb alpha mRNA level in HUVEC. We have now documented that TNF-alpha alone induces GpIb alpha mRNA and protein expression, studied the kinetics of this response, and investigated potential mechanisms of the TNF-alpha effect. GpIb alpha mRNA induction by TNF-alpha is detectable as early as 2 hours after exposure to this cytokine, and reaches a maximal level after 20 to 24 hours. Using a nuclear run-on assay we found that GpIb alpha gene transcription is increased approximately 10-fold after 2 hours of TNF-alpha treatment. Furthermore, using two monoclonal antibodies that recognize different epitopes of GpIb alpha, we found that the protein expression in endothelial cells is markedly increased by TNF-alpha. Interleukin-1 (IL-1) and the phorbol ester phorbol myristate acetate, which mimic many effects of TNF-alpha on endothelial cells, have no effect on endothelial or human erytholeukemia (HEL)-cell GpIb alpha mRNA. TNF-alpha treatment for 24 hours increases the HEL cell GpIb alpha mRNA level approximately fourfold, showing a time- and dose-dependent effect similar to that seen in HUVEC. TNF-alpha-induced GpIb alpha mRNA and protein synthesis may play a role in mediating platelet or other cell interaction with activated endothelium. Unlike other endothelial pro-thrombotic and pro-adhesive proteins induced by TNF-alpha, GpIb alpha is not induced by IL-1 treatment, which suggests a novel pathway for induction of this protein.