Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), also known as cachectin and TNFSF2, is the prototypic ligand of the TNF superfamily. It is a pleiotropic molecule that plays a central role in inflammation, immune system development, apoptosis, and lipid metabolism. TNF-alpha is produced by a wide variety of immune, epithelial, endothelial, and tumor cells. TNF-alpha is assembled intracellularly to form a noncovalently linked homotrimer which is expressed on the cell surface. Cell surface TNF-alpha can induce the lysis of neighboring tumor cells and virus infected cells, and it can generate its own downstream cell signaling following ligation by soluble TNFR I.
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