A great deal of enthusiasm is being generated for TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand)/Apo-2L as a tumor therapeutic agent because it is cytotoxic to a variety of tumor cell types but not normal cells. Moreover, it is well documented that TRAIL/Apo-2L-induced tumor cell death is a caspase-dependent apoptotic process. Through the use of a transfected cell line expressing murine TRAIL/Apo-2L and a recombinant adenovirus encoding the murine TRAIL/Apo-2L cDNA (Ad5-mTRAIL) against two murine tumor cell lines [TRAMP-C2 (prostate adenocarcinoma) and Renca (renal adenocarcinoma)], we found that mTRAIL/Apo-2L also can kill tumor cells by inducing necrosis. Specifically, we observed the default method of mTRAIL/Apo-2L-induced death in TRAMP-C2 cells was via a necrotic process, characterized by the complete lack of an annexin V+/PI- population, SAPK/JNK phosphorylation, caspase activation, Bid cleavage, or cytochrome c release. Moreover, the inclusion of zVAD-fmk, an inhibitor of caspase activation, markedly enhanced mTRAIL/Apo-2L-mediated killing of TRAMP-C2. In contrast, apoptosis was induced in TRAMP-C2 using TNF, as measured by the criteria listed above, as was Renca by mTRAIL/Apo-2L. These results demonstrate the natural occurrence of both TRAIL/Apo-2L-induced apoptotic and necrotic signaling mechanisms within tumor cells.