Tumor necrosis-factor related apoptosis-inducing ligand, also known as TRAIL or APO2L (Apo-2 ligand), is a cytokine of the TNF superfamily acknowledged for its ability to trigger selective apoptosis in tumor cells while being relatively safe towards normal cells. Its binding to its cognate agonist receptors, namely death receptor 4 (DR4) and/or DR5, can induce the formation of a membrane-bound macromolecular complex, coined DISC (death-signaling inducing complex), necessary and sufficient to engage the apoptotic machinery. At the very proximal level, TRAIL DISC formation and activation of apoptosis is regulated both by antagonist receptors and by glycosylation. Remarkably, though, despite the fact that all membrane-bound TRAIL receptors harbor putative glycosylation sites, only pro-apoptotic signaling through DR4 and DR5 has, so far, been found to be regulated by N
- and O
-glycosylation, respectively. Because putative N
-glycosylation sequons and O
-glycosylation sites are also found and conserved in all these receptors throughout all animal species (in which these receptors have been identified), glycosylation is likely to play a more prominent role than anticipated in regulating receptor/receptor interactions or trafficking, ultimately defining cell fate through TRAIL stimulation. This review aims to present and discuss these emerging concepts, the comprehension of which is likely to lead to innovative anticancer therapies.
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