Résumé : Since tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) is known to be involved in the feto-maternal relationship, this cytokine was studied in Trypanosoma cruzi-infected pregnant BALB/c mice and their fetuses and offspring. Pregnant chronically infected mice displayed significantly higher levels of circulating TNF-alpha than animals either only infected or only pregnant. TNF-alpha was undetectable in sera of uninfected and nonpregnant mice as well as in breast milk obtained from infected and uninfected animals. Fetuses from infected mice exhibited significantly more cells containing TNF-alpha mRNA in their thymus than fetuses from uninfected mothers. When infected 2 months after birth, offspring born to infected and uninfected mothers displayed similar amounts of circulating TNF-alpha during chronic infection, whereas this cytokine was only weakly detectable during the acute phase of the disease. An intravenous injection of lipopolysaccharide during acute infection strongly increased the production of TNF-alpha in offspring born to infected mothers to levels higher than those in progeny from uninfected mice. These results suggest that TNF-alpha is an important cytokine in the feto-maternal relationship during T. cruzi infection and that fetuses and offspring of infected mothers are primed to produce elevated levels of TNF-alpha.