Recent studies have shown that proinflammatory cytokines damage rodent neural precursor cells (NPCs), a source of self-renewing, multipotent cells that play an important role in the developing as well as adult brain. In this study, the effects of tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) on cytokine and chemokine production by human NPCs (>98% nestin- and >90% A2B5-positive), obtained from 6- to 8-week-old fetal brain specimens, were evaluated. NPCs stimulated with this proinflammatory cytokine were found to produce abundant amounts of the chemokines monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1)/CC chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) and interferon-inducible protein 10 (IP-10)/CXC chemokine ligand 10 (CXCL10) in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. TNF-α treatment also induced NPC apoptosis. Receptors for TNF [TNFRI (p55) and TNFRII (p75)] mRNA were constitutively expressed on NPCs. However, only TNFRI was involved in TNF-α-induced chemokine production and apoptosis by NPCs, as anti-TNFRI but not anti-TNFRII antibodies blocked the stimulatory effect. TNF-α treatment induced p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphorylation in NPCs, and SB202190, an inhibitor of p38 MAPK, blocked TNF-α-induced chemokine production. Thus, this study demonstrated that NPCs constitutively express receptors for TNF-α, which when activated, trigger via a p38 MAPK signaling pathway production of two chemokines, MCP-1/CCL2 and IP-10/CXCL10, which are involved in infectious and inflammatory diseases of the brain.