TRAIL and apoptosis induction by TNF-family death receptors

Oncogene. 2003 Nov 24;22(53):8628-33. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1207232.


Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand or Apo 2 ligand (TRAIL/Apo2L) is a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family of ligands capable of initiating apoptosis through engagement of its death receptors. TRAIL selectively induces apoptosis of a variety of tumor cells and transformed cells, but not most normal cells, and therefore has garnered intense interest as a promising agent for cancer therapy. TRAIL is expressed on different cells of the immune system and plays a role in both T-cell- and natural killer cell-mediated tumor surveillance and suppression of suppressing tumor metastasis. Some mismatch-repair-deficient tumors evade TRAIL-induced apoptosis and acquire TRAIL resistance through different mechanisms. Death receptors, members of the TNF receptor family, signal apoptosis independently of the p53 tumor-suppressor gene. TRAIL treatment in combination with chemo- or radiotherapy enhances TRAIL sensitivity or reverses TRAIL resistance by regulating the downstream effectors. Efforts to identify agents that activate death receptors or block specific effectors may improve therapeutic design. In this review, we summarize recent insights into the apoptosis-signaling pathways stimulated by TRAIL, present our current understanding of the physiological role of this ligand and the potential of its application for cancer therapy and prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / therapeutic use
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / therapeutic use


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • TNFRSF10A protein, human
  • TNFRSF10B protein, human
  • TNFSF10 protein, human
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha