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Although tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) induces apoptosis in various malignant cells, several cancers including human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) exhibit potent resistance to TRAIL-induced cell death. The aim of this study is to evaluate the anti-cancer potential of capsaicin in TRAIL-induced cancer cell death. As indicated by assays that measure phosphatidylserine exposure, mitochondrial activity and activation of caspases, capsaicin potentiated TRAIL-resistant cells to lead to cell death. In addition, we found that capsaicin induces the cell surface expression of TRAIL receptor DR5, but not DR4 through the activation Sp1 on its promoter region. Furthermore, we investigated that capsaicin-induced DR5 expression and apoptosis are inhibited by calcium chelator or inhibitors for calmodulin-dependent protein kinase. Taken together, our data suggest that capsaicin sensitizes TRAIL-mediated HCC cell apoptosis by DR5 up-regulation via calcium influx-dependent Sp1 activation.