Syndecan-4, a cell-surface heparan sulfate proteoglycan, can participate in inflammation and wound healing as a host defense molecule. Tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α, one of the most potent proinflammatory cytokines, is known to upregulate syndecan-4 expression, but the precise mechanisms are unclear. To elucidate these mechanisms in detail, we examined syndecan-4 upregulation by TNF-α in the endothelium-like EAhy926 cell. Of the two putative nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) binding sites in the syndecan-4 gene (SDC4) promoter, deletion or mutation of one or both sites significantly diminished the effects of TNF-α. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that p65 and c-Rel, but not p50, bound to these NF-κB binding sites, whereas pull-down assays showed binding of all three NF-κB components. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays clearly showed that p65 and phosphorylated p65, but not p50 or c-Rel, bound to the SDC4 promoter. An NF-κB inhibitor, p65 knockdown and a transcriptional elongation inhibitor completely blocked the effect of TNF-α on SDC4 promoter activity and significantly, but not completely, blocked that on SDC4 mRNA expression. These data suggest that NF-κB p65 could be a key mediator of syndecan-4 upregulation by TNF-α through two binding sites in the SDC4 promoter, but other NF-κB-p65 independent pathways might also be involved through transcriptional elongation.