Among tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily, TNF-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL) along with TNF-alpha and FasL is known as death ligand due to its selective cytotoxicity against transformed tumor cells. TRAIL can also induce alternative angiogenic and/or proinflammatory signals other than apoptosis, however, the molecular mechanisms responsible for the alternative signals have not been detailed yet. Intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) is thought to be involved in the processes of metastasis and angiogenesis in various tumors. We investigated the molecular mechanisms responsible for ICAM-1 expression by death ligands in human astroglial cells to delineate the alternative signals of these ligands. Here, we demonstrate that (1) death ligands induced expression of ICAM-I at the mRNA and protein levels in human astroglial cells; (2) pre-treatment of z-VAD-fmk and/or SB202190 suppressed death ligand-induced ICAM-I expression and subsequent adhesion of activated monocytic cells; and (3) inhibition of caspase suppressed death ligand-induced phosphorylation of p38 MAPK and IKK. These findings suggest biological function of death receptors other than apoptosis in human astroglial cells, and the involvement of caspase and/or p38 MAPK in alternative signaling through death receptors. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.