Recently, several decoy molecules belonging to tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily (TNFRSF) have been identified, including decoy receptor 1 (DcR1), decoy receptor 2 (DcR2), and decoy receptor 3 (DcR3). One of the tumor necrosis factor superfamily (TNFSF) members, TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), binds to DcR1 and DcR2, which are membranous receptors with a truncated cytoplasmic domain, thus unable to transduce TRAIL-mediated signaling. In contrast to DcR1 and DcR2, DcR3 is a soluble receptor capable of neutralizing the biological effects of three other TNFSF members: Fas ligand (FasL/TNFSF6/CD95L), LIGHT (TNFSF14) and TNF-like molecule 1A (TL1A/TNFSF15). Since FasL is a potent apoptosis- and inflammation-inducing factor, LIGHT is involved in apoptosis and inflammation, and TL1A is a T cell costimulator and is involved in gut inflammation, DcR3 can be defined as an immunomodulator on the basis of its neutralizing effects on FasL, LIGHT, and TL1A. Initial studies demonstrated that DcR3 expression is elevated in tumors cells; however, later work showed that DcR3 expression is also upregulated in inflammatory diseases, where serum DcR3 levels correlate with disease progression. In addition to its neutralizing effect, DcR3 also acts as an effector molecule to modulate cell function via 'non-decoy' activities. This review focuses on the immunomodulatory effects of DcR3 via 'decoy' and 'non-decoy' functions, and discusses the potential of DcR3 as a biomarker to predict cancer invasion and inflammation progression. We also discuss the possible utility of recombinant DcR3 as a therapeutic agent to control autoimmune diseases, as well as the potential to attenuate tumor progression by inhibiting DcR3 expression.
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