We utilized a line of transgenic mice expressing Photinus luciferase complementary DNA (cDNA) under the control of a nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappaB)-dependent promoter (from the 5' human immunodeficiency virus-1 [HIV-1] long terminal repeat) to examine the role of NF-kappaB activation in the pathogenesis of systemic inflammation induced by bacterial endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide [LPS]). After intraperitoneal injection of E. coli LPS, these mice displayed a time- and dose-dependent, organ-specific pattern of luciferase expression, showing that NF-kappaB-dependent gene transcription is transiently activated in multiple organs by systemic LPS administration. Luciferase expression in liver could be specifically blocked by intravenous administration of replication-deficient adenoviral vectors expressing a dominant inhibitor of NF-kappaB (IkappaB-alphaDN), confirming that luciferase gene expression is a surrogate marker for NF-kappaB activation in this line of mice. After treatment with intraperitoneal LPS, the mice were found to have increased lung tissue messenger RNA (mRNA) expression of a variety of cytokines that are thought to be NF-kappaB-dependent, as well as elevated serum concentrations of presumed NF-kappaB-dependent cytokines. In lung tissue homogenates, a close correlation was identified between luciferase activity and KC levels. These studies show that systemic treatment with LPS orchestrates a multiorgan NF-kappaB-dependent response that likely regulates the pathobiology of systemic inflammation.