To determine whether inflammation can induce bovine fatty liver, we administered recombinant bovine tumor necrosis factor-alpha (rbTNF) to late-lactation Holstein cows. Cows (n = 5/treatment) were blocked by feed intake and parity and randomly assigned within block to control (CON; saline), rbTNF at 2 microg/(kg.d), or pair-fed control (saline, intake matched) treatments. Treatments were administered once daily by subcutaneous injection for 7 d. Plasma samples were collected daily for analysis of glucose and FFA and a liver biopsy was collected on d 7 for triglyceride (TG) and quantitative RT-PCR analyses. Data were analyzed using treatment contrasts to assess effects of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFalpha) and decreased feed intake. By d 7, feed intake of both rbTNF and pair-fed cows was approximately 15% less than CON (P < 0.01). Administration of rbTNF resulted in greater hepatic TNFalpha mRNA and protein abundance and 103% higher liver TG content (P < 0.05) without affecting the plasma FFA concentration. Hepatic carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1 transcript abundance tended to be lower (P = 0.09) and transcript abundance of fatty acid translocase and 1-acyl-glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase was higher (both P < 0.05) after rbTNF treatment, consistent with increased FFA uptake and storage as TG. Transcript abundance of glucose-6-phosphatase (P < 0.05) and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase 1 (P = 0.09), genes important for gluconeogenesis, was lower for rbTNF-treated cows. These findings indicate that TNFalpha promotes liver TG accumulation and suggest that inflammatory pathways may also be responsible for decreased glucose production in cows with fatty liver.