Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) are important regulators of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) and adamalysin (ADAM) activity. We have previously shown that adenovirally expressed tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-3 (TIMP-3) induces apoptosis in melanoma cells and inhibits growth of human melanoma xenografts. Here, we have studied the role of death receptors in apoptosis of melanoma cells induced by TIMP-3. Our results show, that the exposure of three metastatic melanoma cell lines (A2058, SK-Mel-5, and WM-266-4) to recombinant TIMP-3, N-terminal MMP inhibitory domain of TIMP-3, as well as to adenovirally expressed TIMP-3 results in stabilization of tumor necrosis factor receptor-1 (TNF-RI), FAS, and TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand receptor-1 (TRAIL-RI) on melanoma cell surface and sensitizes these cells to apoptosis induced by TNF-alpha, anti-Fas-antibody and TRAIL. Stabilization of death receptors by TIMP-3 results in activation of caspase-8 and caspase-3, and subsequent apoptosis is blocked by specific caspase-8 inhibitor (Z-IETD-FMK) and by pan-caspase inhibitor (Z-DEVD-FMK). Adenovirus-mediated expression of TIMP-3 in human melanoma xenografts in vivo resulted in increased immunostaining for TNF-RI, FAS, and cleaved caspase-3, and in apoptosis of melanoma cells. Taken together, these results show that TIMP-3 promotes apoptosis in melanoma cells through stabilization of three distinct death receptors and activation of their apoptotic signaling cascade through caspase-8.