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We investigated the regulatory role of glutathione in tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)-induced vascular endothelial dysfunction as evaluated by using vascular endothelial adhesion molecule expression and monocyte–endothelial monolayer binding. Since TNF-α induces various biological effects on vascular cells, TNF-α dosage could be a determinant factor directing vascular cells into different biological fates. Based on the adhesion molecule expression patterns responding to different TNF-α concentrations, we adopted the lower TNF-α (0.2 ng/ml) to rule out the possible involvement of other TNF-α-induced biological effects. Inhibition of glutathione synthesis by l-buthionine-(S, R)-sulfoximine (BSO) resulted in down-regulations of the TNF-α-induced adhesion molecule expression and monocyte–endothelial monolayer binding. BSO attenuated the TNF-α-induced nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-κB) activation, however, with no detectable effect on AP-1 and its related mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). Deletion of an AP-1 binding site in intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) promoter totally abolished its constitutive promoter activity and its responsiveness to TNF-α. Inhibition of ERK, JNK, or NF-κB attenuates TNF-α-induced ICAM-1 promoter activation and monocyte–endothelial monolayer binding. Our study indicates that TNF-α induces adhesion molecule expression and monocyte–endothelial monolayer binding mainly via activation of NF-κB in a glutathione-sensitive manner. We also demonstrated that intracellular glutathione does not modulate the activation of MAPKs and/or their downstream AP-1 induced by lower TNF-α. Although AP-1 activation by the lower TNF-α was not detected in our systems, we could not rule out the possible involvement of transiently activated MAPKs/AP-1 in the regulation of TNF-α-induced adhesion molecule expression.