Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) may play a central role in proviral activation and release from latency in cells infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). We studied viral production and its relation to TNF in a HL-60 cell line (J22-HL-60) infected with a monocytotropic strain of HIV-1JR-FL. Viral production was stimulated to similar levels by TNF, 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA), and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25[OH]2D3). Production of the virus was not suppressed by 3′-azido-3′-deoxythymidine (AZT), indicating that viral production was not caused by superinfection. Low concentrations of TNF (0.1 ng/mL) induced viral production with a short lag period of 8 hours, and this proviral activation was specifically suppressed by anti- TNF antibodies. However, induction of virus production by 1,25(OH)2D3 showed an extended lag period of 2 to 3 days. The effect of 1,25(OH)2D3 on virus production was also blocked by anti-TNF antibodies, which suggests the direct participation of TNF in this process. TNF accumulated in the culture supernatant of cells stimulated with 1,25(OH)2D3 with a kinetics consistent with its involvement in the action of 1,25(OH)2D3 on viral production. The J22-HL-60 cell line produced low levels of virus when cultured in the absence of an external stimulus; however, this basal viral production was suppressed greater than 80% in the presence of anti-TNF antibodies. Corresponding low levels of TNF were detected in the culture supernatants. Viral production decreased slowly with increasing passage of the cells, and no virus was detected in the supernatants of cells maintained in culture for several months. Concomitantly, TNF was no longer detected in the supernatant of these cells, which suggests that endogenous autocrine production of TNF drives viral production in the unstimulated cells. However, viral production was stimulated in these cells by low concentrations (0.1 ng/mL) of added TNF. These results argue for a central role for TNF in HIV proviral activation in chronically infected myeloid cells.