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The tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a widely expressed cytokine that can bind five different receptors. TRAIL has been of particular interest for its proposed ability to selectively induce apoptosis in tumour cells. However, it has also been found to regulate a wide variety of non-canonical cellular effects including survival, migration and proliferation via kinase signalling pathways. Lung diseases represent a wide range of conditions affecting multiple tissues. TRAIL has been implicated in several biological processes underlying lung diseases, including angiogenesis, inflammation, and immune regulation. For example, TRAIL is detrimental in pulmonary arterial hypertension-it is upregulated in patient serum and lungs, and drives the underlying proliferative pulmonary vascular remodelling in rodent models. However, TRAIL protects against pulmonary fibrosis in mice models-by inducing apoptosis of neutrophils-and reduced serum TRAIL is found in patients. Conversely, in the airways TRAIL positively regulates inflammation and immune response. In COPD patients and asthmatic patients challenged with antigen, TRAIL and its death receptors are upregulated in serum and airways. Furthermore, TRAIL-deleted mouse models have reduced airway inflammation and remodelling. In the context of respiratory infections, TRAIL assists in immune response, e.g., via T-cell toxicity in influenza infection, and neutrophil killing in S. pneumoniae infection. In this mini-review, we examine the functions of TRAIL and highlight the diverse roles TRAIL has in diseases affecting the lung. Disentangling the facets of TRAIL signalling in lung diseases could help in understanding their pathogenic processes and targeting novel treatments.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Med (Lausanne)

Publication Date





TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, TRAIL, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, immune regulation, pulmonary arterial hypertension, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary vascular disease, respiratory tract infections