Hydroxy-safflower yellow A (HSYA) is the major active component of safflower, a traditional Asia herbal medicine well known for its cardiovascular protective activities. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of HSYA on TNF-α-induced inflammatory responses in arterial endothelial cells (AECs) and to explore the mechanisms involved. The results showed that HSYA suppressed the up-regulation of ICAM-1 expression in TNF-α-stimulated AECs in a dose-dependent manner. High concentration (120 μM) HSYA significantly inhibited the TNF-α-induced adhesion of RAW264.7 cells to AECs. HSYA blocked the TNFR1-mediated phosphorylation and degradation of IκBα and also prevented the nuclear translocation of NF-κB p65. Moreover, HSYA reduced the cell surface level of TNFR1 and increased the content of sTNFR1 in the culture media. TNF-α processing inhibitor-0 (TAPI-0) prevented the HSYA inhibition of TNFR1-induced IκBα degradation, implying the occurrence of TNFR1 shedding. Furthermore, HSYA induced phosphorylation of TNF-α converting enzyme (TACE) at threonine 735, which is thought to be required for its activation. Conclusively, HSYA suppressed TNF-α-induced inflammatory responses in AECs, at least in part by inhibiting the TNFR1-mediated classical NF-κB pathway. TACE-mediated TNFR1 shedding can be involved in this effect. Our study provides new evidence for the antiinflammatory and anti-atherosclerotic effects of HSYA. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.