Sepsis is a systemic response to infection in which toxins, such as bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), stimulate the production of inflammatory mediators like the cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). Previous studies from our laboratory have revealed that LPS inhibits the intestinal absorption of L-leucine and D-fructose in rabbit when it was intravenously administered, and that TNF-alpha seems to mediate this effect on amino acid absorption. To extend this work, the present study was designed to evaluate the possible effect of TNF-alpha on D-galactose intestinal absorption, identify the intracellular mechanisms involved and establish whether this cytokine mediates possible LPS effects. Our findings indicate that TNF-alpha decreases D-galactose absorption both in rabbit intestinal tissue preparations and brush-border membrane vesicles. Western blot analysis revealed reduced amounts of the Na+/glucose cotransporter (SGLT1) protein in the plasma membrane attributable to the cytokine. On the contrary, TNF-alpha increased SGLT1 mRNA levels. Specific inhibitors of the secondary messengers PKC, PKA, the MAP kinases p38 MAP, JNK, MEK1/2 as well as the proteasome, diminished the TNF-alpha-evoked inhibitory effect. LPS inhibition of the uptake of the sugar was blocked by a TNF-alpha antagonist. In conclusion, TNF-alpha inhibits D-galactose intestinal absorption by decreasing the number of SGLT1 molecules at the enterocyte plasma membrane through a mechanism in which several protein-like kinases are involved.