A variety of tumour necrosis factor α (TNF-α) derivatives have been bioengineered to improve antitumour activity and reduce toxicity. The expression of TNF-α in Escherichia coli usually yields a mixture of homotrimers and monomers; however, only the trimer shows antitumour activity. TNF-αD10, a bioengineered hTNF-α derivative, demonstrated 10-fold higher cytotoxicity against tumour cells compared to hTNF-α, but the trimer to monomer ratio was 58:42. In the present study, we investigated the structural differences between the trimer and the monomer of TNF-αD10. We found that the chemical shifts of the C-terminal Trp(114) in the trimer were significantly different from those in the monomer and that the replacement of Trp(114) with different amino acids remarkably reduced the trimer production. Further analysis of the publicly available X-ray crystallographic data for trimeric and monomeric hTNF-α revealed that the conformation of the U-shaped region formed by the fragment Cys(101)-Trp(114) was different between the two forms: a hydrophilic cavity in the monomer and a hydrophobic cavity in the trimer. These findings suggested the potential approaches of molecular and structural modification for future improvement of hTNF-α trimer production.