TNF-alpha is a pleiotropic cytokine that exists both as a 26-kDa cell-associated and a 17-kDa soluble form. Recently, a class of matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors has been identified that can prevent the processing by TNF convertase of 26-kDa TNF-alpha to its 17-kDa form and can reduce mortality from normally lethal doses of D-galactosamine plus LPS (D-GalN/LPS). Here we report that a matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor, GM-6001, improves survival but does not protect against liver injury from D-GalN/LPS-induced shock in the mouse. In Con A-induced hepatitis, GM-6001 actually exacerbates hepatocellular necrosis and apoptosis despite greater than 90% reduction in plasma TNF-alpha concentrations. Treatment with GM-6001 also has minimal effect on the concentration of membrane-associated TNF-alpha in the livers of animals with Con A induced hepatitis. In contrast, a TNF binding protein (TNF-bp), which neutralizes both membrane-associated and soluble TNF-alpha, prevents D-GalN/LPS- and Con A-induced hepatitis. Our studies suggest that cell-associated TNF-alpha plays a role in the hepatocellular necrosis and apoptosis that accompany D-GalN/LPS- or Con A-induced hepatitis, and that matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors are ineffective in preventing this hepatic injury.