Death receptors are a subfamily of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor subfamily. They are characterized by a death domain (DD) motif within their intracellular domain, which is required for the induction of apoptosis. Fas-associated death domain protein (FADD) is reported to be the universal adaptor used by death receptors to recruit and activate the initiator caspase-8. CD95, TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL-R1), and TRAIL-R2 bind FADD directly, whereas recruitment to TNF-R1 is indirect through another adaptor TNF receptor-associated death domain protein (TRADD). TRADD also binds two other adaptors receptor-interacting protein (RIP) and TNF-receptor-associated factor 2 (TRAF2), which are required for TNF-induced NF-kappaB and c-Jun N-terminal kinase activation, respectively. Analysis of the native TNF signaling complex revealed the recruitment of RIP, TRADD, and TRAF2 but not FADD or caspase-8. TNF failed to induce apoptosis in FADD- and caspase-8-deficient Jurkat cells, indicating that these apoptotic mediators were required for TNF-induced apoptosis. In an in vitro binding assay, the intracellular domain of TNF-R1 bound TRADD, RIP, and TRAF2 but did not bind FADD or caspase-8. Under the same conditions, the intracellular domain of both CD95 and TRAIL-R2 bound both FADD and caspase-8. Taken together these results suggest that apoptosis signaling by TNF is distinct from that induced by CD95 and TRAIL. Although caspase-8 and FADD are obligatory for TNF-mediated apoptosis, they are not recruited to a TNF-induced membrane-bound receptor signaling complex as occurs during CD95 or TRAIL signaling, but instead must be activated elsewhere within the cell.