Tight regulation of the production of the key pro-inflammatory cytokine tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is essential for the prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases. In vivo administration of a synthetic phospholipid, named hereafter phospho-ceramide analogue-1 (PCERA-1), was previously found to suppress lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced TNF-alpha blood levels. We therefore investigated the in vitro anti-inflammatory effects of PCERA-1. Here, we show that extracellular PCERA-1 potently suppresses production of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha in RAW264.7 macrophages, and in addition, independently and reciprocally regulates the production of the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10). Specificity is demonstrated by the inability of the phospholipids ceramide-1-phosphate (C1P), sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) and lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) to perform these activities. Similar TNF-alpha suppression and IL-10 induction by PCERA-1 were observed in macrophages when activated by Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), TLR2 and TLR7 agonists. Regulation of cytokine production is demonstrated at the mRNA and protein levels. Finally, we show that, while PCERA-1 does not block activation of nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB and mitogen-activated protein kinases by LPS, it elevates the intracellular cAMP level. In conclusion, the anti-inflammatory activity of PCERA-1 seems to be mediated by a cell membrane receptor, upstream of cAMP production, and eventually TNF-alpha suppression and IL-10 induction. Thus, identification of the PCERA-1 receptor may provide new pharmacological means to block inflammation.