IkappaB kinase beta (IKKbeta) is required for NF-kappaB activation and suppression of TNFalpha-mediated liver apoptosis. To investigate how IKKbeta suppresses apoptosis, we generated hepatocyte-specific Ikkbeta knockout mice, Ikkbeta(Deltahep), which exhibit little residual NF- kappaB activity but are healthy with normal liver function. Unexpectedly, Ikkbeta(Deltahep) mice are slightly more sensitive than controls to LPS-induced liver apoptosis but are highly susceptible to liver destruction following concanavalin A (ConA)-induced T cell activation. Unlike LPS, a potent inducer of circulating TNFalpha, ConA exerts cytotoxic effects through cell-bound TNFalpha, which activates type 1 and 2 TNF receptors (TNFR). While TNFR2 does not contribute to NF-kappaB activation, it is important for ConA-induced JNK activation, which is augmented by the absence of IKKbeta. Using JNK-deficient mice we show that JNK is required for ConA-induced liver damage. Thus, the antiapoptotic function of IKKbeta, which is most critical in situations that involve cell-bound TNFalpha, is mediated partially through attenuation of JNK activity.