Studies have suggested a link between the transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-β1) signaling cascade and the stress-inducible activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3). We have demonstrated that triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (TGRL) lipolysis products activate MAP kinase stress associated JNK/c-Jun pathways resulting in up-regulation of ATF3, pro-inflammatory genes and induction of apoptosis in human aortic endothelial cells. Here we demonstrate increased release of active TGF-β at 15 min, phosphorylation of Smad2 and translocation of co-Smad4 from cytosol to nucleus after a 1.5 h treatment with lipolysis products. Activation and translocation of Smad2 and 4 was blocked by addition of SB431542 (10 μM), a specific inhibitor of TGF-β-activin receptor ALKs 4, 5, 7. Both ALK receptor inhibition and anti TGF-β1 antibody prevented lipolysis product induced up-regulation of ATF3 mRNA and protein. ALK inhibition prevented lipolysis product-induced nuclear accumulation of ATF3. ALKs 4, 5, 7 inhibition also prevented phosphorylation of c-Jun and TGRL lipolysis product-induced p53 and caspase-3 protein expression. These findings demonstrate that TGRL lipolysis products cause release of active TGF-β and lipolysis product-induced apoptosis is dependent on TGF-β signaling. Furthermore, signaling through the stress associated JNK/c-Jun pathway is dependent on TGF-β signaling suggesting that TGF-β signaling is necessary for nuclear accumulation of the ATF3/cJun transcription complex and induction of pro-inflammatory responses.