Background: Tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) inhibitors such as adalimumab and infliximab are frequently prescribed for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Despite the clinical success of TNFα inhibitors, their physiological mode of action is not fully understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the mode of action of anti-TNFαagents in IBD. Methods: It was hypothesised that Notch mediates anti-TNFα action in T cells. A study was carried out to identify Notch-1 as a link by which anti-TNFα antibodies mediate their inhibitory functions. Results: TNFα inhibitors induced T cell apoptosis, inhibited activation, reduced cytokine secretion and restricted cell cycling. TNFα blockade at several levels showed that TNFα is responsible for inducing apoptosis by anti-TNFα but not for cell cycle restriction. By linking Notch and TNFα it was shown that (1) Notch-1 mucosal expression differs in inflamed and non-inflamed mucosa and increases in response to anti-TNFα treatment; (2) Notch-1 function is regulated by TNFα inhibitors; (3) Notch-1 binds to TNFα; and (4) Notch-1 inhibition prevents anti-TNFα-induced T cell cycle arrest but not apoptosis. Conclusions: TNFα inhibitors potently inhibit T cell function. By demonstrating for the first time that Notch-1 mediates the inhibitory effects of adalimumab and infliximab on T cell cycling, this study reveals a new mode of action and also an underlying signalling pathway by which biological agents act in IBD.