Death to the bad guys: targeting cancer via Apo2L/TRAIL

Apoptosis. 2005 Jan;10(1):35-51. doi: 10.1007/s10495-005-6060-0.


All higher organisms consist of an ordered society of individual cells that must communicate to maintain and regulate their functions. This is achieved through a complex but highly regulated network of hormones, chemical mediators, chemokines and other cytokines, acting as ligands for intra or extra-cellular receptors. Ligands and receptors of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamilies are examples of signal transducers, whose integrated actions influence the development, homeostasis and adaptive responses of many cells and tissue types. Apo2L/TRAIL is one of several members of the tumour necrosis factor superfamily that induce apoptosis through the engagement of death receptors. Apo2L/TRAIL interacts with an unusually complex receptor system, which in humans comprises two death receptors and three decoy receptors. This molecule has received considerable attention recently because of the finding that many cancer cell types are sensitive to Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis, while most normal cells appear to be resistant to this action of Apo2L/TRAIL. In this review, we specifically emphasise on the actions of Apo2L/TRAIL with respect to its apoptotic signaling pathways and summarise what is known about its physiological role. The potential therapeutic usefulness of Apo2L/TRAIL, especially in combination with chemotherapeutic agents, is also discussed in some detail.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factors / metabolism*
  • fas Receptor / metabolism


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • TNFSF10 protein, human
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Tumor Necrosis Factors
  • fas Receptor