We have demonstrated that Apo-2 ligand (Apo-2L)/tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) induces apoptosis of human prostate cancer PC-3, DU145, and LNCaP cells in a dose-dependent manner, with PC-3 cells displaying the greatest sensitivity to Apo-2L/TRAIL. Susceptibility of the prostate cancer cell types to Apo-2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis did not appear to correlate with the levels of the Apo-2L/TRAIL receptors death receptor (DR) 4 (TRAIL receptor 1) or DR5 (TRAIL receptor 2), decoy receptor (DcR) 1 and DcR2, Flame-1, or the inhibitors of apoptosis proteins family of proteins. Apo-2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis of PC-3 cells was associated with the processing of caspase-8, caspase-10, and the proapoptotic Bid protein, resulting in the cytosolic accumulation of cytochrome c as well as the processing of procaspase-9 and procaspase-3. Cotreatment with the caspase-8 inhibitor z-IETD-fmk or DR4:Fc significantly inhibited Apo-2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Treatment with paclitaxel or taxotere increased DR4 and/or DR5 protein levels (up to 8-fold) without affecting the protein levels of DcR1 and DcR2, Apo-2L/TRAIL, Fas, or Fas ligand. Up-regulation of DR4 and DR5 was not preceded by the induction of their mRNA levels but was inhibited by cotreatment with cycloheximide. Importantly, sequential treatment of PC-3, DU145, and LNCaP cells with paclitaxel followed by Apo-2L/TRAIL induced significantly more apoptosis than Apo-2L/TRAIL treatment alone (P < 0.01). This was also associated with greater processing of procaspase-8 and Bid, as well as greater cytosolic accumulation of cytochrome c and the processing of caspase-3. These findings indicate that up-regulation of DR4 and DR5 protein levels by treatment with paclitaxel enhances subsequent Apo-2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis of human prostate cancer cells.