Ligand binding to tumor necrosis factor receptor-I (TNFRI) can promote cell survival or activate the apoptotic caspase cascade. Cytoplasmic interaction of TNFRI with TRAF2 and RIP allows for the activation of JNK and NFkappaB pathways. Alternatively, a carboxy terminal death domain protein interaction motif can recruit TRADD, which then recruits FADD/MORT1, and finally procaspase 8. Aggregation of these components form a death inducing signaling complex, leading to the cleavage and activation of caspase 8. We have found that during apoptosis human TNFRI protein is lost in a caspase-dependent manner. The cytoplasmic tail of human TNFRI was found to be susceptible to caspase cleavage but not by caspase 8. Instead, the downstream executioner caspase 7 was the only caspase capable of cleaving TNFRI, in vitro. Identification and characterization of the cleavage site revealed a derivative of the classic EXD motif that incorporates a glutamate (E) in the P1 position. Using several criteria to establish that caspase activity was responsible for cleavage at this site, we confirmed that caspase 7 can cleave at a GELE motif. Mutation of the cleavage site prevented the apoptosis-associated cleavage of TNFRI. This ability of caspase 7 to cleave at a non-EXD or -DXXD motif suggests that the specificity of caspases may be broader than is currently held.