We have developed a method that cells exhibiting typical dendritic cell (DC) characteristics are generated from human CD34(+) cells and phagocytose cogenerating erythroid progenitor cells in the presence of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-3, stem cell factor and erythropoietin. Using this system, we titrated the effects of TNF antagonists, etanercept and infliximab, on TNF-alpha activity. We found that 1 microg/ml etanercept dramatically inhibited the generation of CD11c(+) cells accompanying with a complete recovery of the generation of erythroid progenitors. Infliximab at 200 microg/ml exhibited a similar effect to that observed for etanercept. The delayed addition of etanercept to this culture system at day five resulted in significant inhibitory effects on the generation of CD11c(+), CD4(+) and CD86(+) cells. These results indicate that TNF antagonists administered at a concentration that is achievable in vivo, neutralize the biologic effects of TNF-alpha in generating CD11c(+) cells and that a delay in the administration of these antagonists for as long as 5 days partially inhibits the biologic activity of TNF-alpha. These findings may contribute to a great understanding of anti-TNF therapy in patients with an overproduction of cytokines such as hemophagocytic syndromes.