Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA-sulfate (DHEAS), the representative sex steroid precursors, are postulated to have antiinflammatory effects, although the molecular background remains unknown. In this study, we examined the effects of these sex steroid precursors on cytokine-induced, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB)-mediated transcription. The HuH7 human hepatocyte cell line was stably transfected with an NF-κB-luciferase reporter gene or transiently transfected with other representative response elements-luciferase fusion genes, and the effects of DHEA/DHEAS on proinflammatory cytokine-induced transcription were estimated by luciferase assay. The results showed that DHEA/DHEAS potently inhibited TNF-α-induced NF-κB-dependent transcription in a time- and dose-dependent manner. The effect was more obvious for DHEAS than for DHEA, and both steroids preferentially inhibited the cytokine-stimulated rather than basal NF-κB-mediated transcription. Similar effects were observed in activator protein-1-dependent but not constitutive Rous sarcoma virus promoter-dependent transcription. Two major downstream products of the sex steroid precursors, estradiol and testosterone, had no effect, indicating that the observed suppressive effect is not mediated by these metabolites. In contrast, glucocorticoids showed inhibitory effects on both basal and stimulated transcription and had an additive effect with DHEAS, suggesting the independent mechanisms of action of these steroid hormones. Finally, DHEAS eliminated hydroxyradical-induced activation of NF-κB-dependent transcription as well. Altogether, these results suggest that DHEA/DHEAS have an antiinflammatory effect in such a way that they inhibit proinflammatory cytokine-stimulated, NF-κB-mediated transcription, at least partly through their antioxidant properties.