ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1), a 254-kD membrane protein, is a key regulator of lipid efflux from cells to apolipoproteins. ABCA1 in pancreatic β-cells influences insulin secretion and cholesterol homeostasis. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α is a pleiotropic cytokine that elicits a wide spectrum of physiological events, including cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis and is also known to decrease glucose-dependent insulin secretion in pancreatic islets. In the present study, we examined the role of TNF-α on ABCA1 expression in rat pancreatic islets and INS-1 cells. ABCA1 protein levels decreased in response to rising concentrations of TNF-α in pancreatic islets. Real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis showed a significant decrease in ABCA1 mRNA expression. In parallel with its effect on endogenous ABCA1 mRNA levels, TNF-α suppressed the activity of a reporter construct containing the ABCA1 promoter. This effect was abrogated by BIRB796, but not by SB203580 or LY-294002. The constitutively active form of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) γ suppressed ABCA1 promoter activity but not p38-MAPK (α, β), while a dominant-negative mutant of p38-MAPK γ blocked the effect of TNF-α on ABCA1 promoter activity. BIRB796 inhibited the increased cholesterol ester content induced by TNF-α. However, BIRB796 had no effect on either the decreased insulin content or the ABCA1 suppression caused by TNF-α in INS-1 cells. We checked the influence of TNF-α of insulin secretion and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in rat pancreatic islet and INS-1 cell. TNF-α suppressed the insulin secretion and glucose-stimulated insulin secretion in both rat pancreatic islet and INS-1 cell. In summary, TNF-α suppressed the expression of endogenous ABCA1 and suppress the insulin secretion in pancreatic islets and INS-1 cells. These findings raise the possibility that TNF-α may affect insulin secretion by controlling ABCA1 expression.