Expression of tumor necrosis factor (TNF alpha), tissue factor (TF), and interleukin 1-beta (IL-1 beta) mRNA was evaluated in monocytes isolated from patients infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). There was a significant depression (66%) of the induced level of TF mRNA expression in response to lipopolysaccharide. Conversely, the response of TNF alpha and IL-1 beta, following LPS induction, was "normal." TF mRNA reduction was also observed to a lesser degree in AIDS-related complex patients (20%) but not in asymptomatic seropositives. TF is necessary for initiation of the coagulation protease cascade, leading to thrombin production and fibrin deposition, which play a role in inflammatory responses. Its selective reduction may be a factor in the diminished resistance to secondary infections observed in AIDS. Further, since the TF defect increases as patients progress toward AIDS, it may serve as a marker for disease progression.