Fas (CD95/APO-1) is an important mediator of apoptosis. We show that Fas-resistant MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, and MDA-MB-435 human breast cancer cells become responsive to anti-Fas (CD95) agonistic antibody-triggered apoptosis after pretreatment or cotreatment with vitamin E succinate (VES; RRR-alpha-tocopheryl succinate). In contrast, no enhancement of anti-Fas agonistic antibody-triggered apoptosis was observed following VES pretreatment or cotreatment with Fas-sensitive primary cultures of human mammary epithelial cells, immortalized MCF-10A cells, or T47D human breast cancer cells. Although VES is itself a potent apoptotic triggering agent, the 6-h pretreatment procedure for Fas sensitization did not initiate VES-mediated apoptosis. The combination of VES plus anti-Fas in pretreatment protocols was synergistic, inducing 2.8-, 3.0-, and 6.3-fold enhanced apoptosis in Fas-resistant MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, and MDA-MB-435 cells, respectively. Likewise, cotreatment of Fas-resistant MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, and MDA-MB-435 cells with VES plus anti-Fas enhanced apoptosis 1.9-, 2.0-, and 2.6-fold, respectively. Functional knockout of Fas-mediated signaling with either Fas-neutralizing antibody (MCF-7-, MDA-MB-231-, and MDA-MB-435-treated cells) or Fas antisense oligomers (MDA-MB-435-treated cells only), reduced VES-triggered apoptosis by approximately 50%. Analyses of whole cell extracts from Fas-sensitive cells revealed high constitutive expression of Mr 43,000 Fas, whereas Fas-resistant cells expressed low levels that were confined to the cytosolic fraction. VES treatment of the Fas-resistant cells caused a depletion of cytosolic Mr 43,000 Fas with a concomitant increase in Mr 43,000 membrane Fas. These data show that VES can convert Fas-resistant human breast cancer cells to a Fas-sensitive phenotype, perhaps by translocation of cytosolic Mr 43,000 Fas to the membrane and show that VES-mediated apoptosis involves Mr 43,000 Fas signaling.