TWEAK is a multifunctional cytokine that controls many cellular activities including proliferation, migration, differentiation, apoptosis, angiogenesis and inflammation. TWEAK acts by binding to Fn14, a highly inducible cell-surface receptor that is linked to several intracellular signalling pathways, including the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) pathway. The TWEAK-Fn14 axis normally regulates various physiological processes, in particular it seems to play an important, beneficial role in tissue repair following acute injury. Furthermore, recent studies have indicated that TWEAK-Fn14 axis signalling may contribute to cancer, chronic autoimmune diseases and acute ischaemic stroke. This Review provides an overview of TWEAK-Fn14 axis biology and summarizes the available data supporting the proposal that both TWEAK and Fn14 should be considered as potential targets for the development of novel therapeutics.