Multiple effects of TRAIL in human carcinoma cells: induction of apoptosis, senescence, proliferation, and cytokine production

Exp Cell Res. 2008 Apr 15;314(7):1605-16. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2007.12.027. Epub 2008 Jan 16.


TRAIL is a death ligand that induces apoptosis in malignant but not normal cells. Recently the ability of TRAIL to induce proliferation in apoptosis-resistant normal and malignant cells was reported. In this study, we analyzed TRAIL effects in apoptosis sensitive MCF7, OVCAR3 and H460 human tumor cell lines. TRAIL at low concentrations preferentially induced cell proliferation. At 100 ng/ml, apoptotic death was readily observed, however surviving cells acquired higher proliferative capacity. TRAIL-stimulated production of several cytokines, IL-8, RANTES, MCP-1 and bFGF, and activation of caspases 1 and 8 was essential for this effect. Antibodies to IL-8, RANTES, and bFGF blocked TRAIL-induced cell proliferation and further stimulated apoptosis. For the first time, we report that high TRAIL concentrations induced cell senescence as determined by the altered morphology and expression of several senescence markers: SA-beta-gal, p21Waf1/Cip1, p16INK4a, and HMGA. Caspase 9 inhibition protected TRAIL-treated cells from senescence, whereas inhibition of caspases 1 and 8 increased the yield of SLP cells. In conclusion, in cultured human carcinoma cells, TRAIL therapy results in three functional outcomes, apoptosis, proliferation and senescence. TRAIL-induced proapoptotic and prosurvival responses correlate with the strength of signaling. TRAIL-induced cytokine production is responsible for its proliferative and prosurvival effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cellular Senescence / drug effects*
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / pharmacology*


  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Cytokines
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand