During periods of periodontal attachment loss, one of the most significant cellular changes is a decrease in the number of fibroblasts. We previously demonstrated that LPS induces apoptosis of fibroblastic cells in vivo, largely through TNF-alpha. We conducted in vivo experiments by subcutaneous inoculation of LPS in wild-type, TNFR1-/-R2-/-, TNFR1-/-, and TNFR2-/- mice to identify which TNF receptors are involved and the specific caspase pathway activated. LPS stimulated apoptosis through TNFR1 but not TNFR2, which was accompanied by the induced expression of 12 apoptotic genes. Fluorometric studies demonstrated that LPS in vivo significantly increased caspase-8 and caspase-3 activity, which was also dependent on TNF receptor signaling. By the use of specific caspase inhibitors, caspases-3 and -8 were shown to play an important role in LPS-induced apoptosis in vivo. Thus, LPS acts through TNFR1 to modulate the expression of apoptotic genes and activate caspases-3 and -8.