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Schematic diagram of the apoptotic pathway induced by the combined treatment with PTX and TRAIL.Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL/Apo2L) is a promising anticancer agent but cutaneous T lymphoma cells (CTCL) are less sensitive to TRAIL-induced apoptosis. Here, we report that pentoxifylline (PTX), a phosphodiesterase inhibitor, augments TRAIL-mediated apoptosis in HuT-78 and MyLa cells through modulating extrinsic death receptors and intrinsic mitochondria dependent pathways. Our results clearly show that PTX augments TRAIL-mediated activation of caspase-8 and induces cleavage of Bid, although PTX alone cannot activate caspase-8. This is followed by cytochrome c release and subsequent, activation of caspase-9 and caspase-3 and cleavage of poly (ADP ribose) polymerase (PARP). Combined treatment downregulates the expression of various antiapoptotic proteins including c-FLIP, Bcl-xl, cIAP-1, cIAP-2 and XIAP. PTX induces the expression of death receptors DR4 and DR5 on cell surface of both the cell types where c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway plays an important role. Moreover, combined silencing of DR4 and DR5 by small interfering RNA abrogates the ability of PTX to induce TRAIL-mediated apoptosis. Thus, this is the first demonstration that PTX can potentiate TRAIL-mediated apoptosis through downregulation of cell survival gene products and upregulation of death receptors.