BACKGROUND: TRAIL is a promising anticancer agent which induces selective tumor cell death due to a unique receptor system that includes death receptors and decoy receptors. DR5 TRAIL receptor is an originally identified p53-regulated death receptor gene that was induced, by doxorubicine, only in cells with a wild-type p53 status. We investigated that focused on the correlation between the DR5 and p53 expressions in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). METHODS: Immunohistochemical analysis, with using avidin-biotinylated horseradish peroxidase complex, was carried out in 89 surgically resected NSCLC formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue sections. As primary antibodies, we used anti-DR5 polyclonal antibody and anti-p53 monoclonal antibody. A negative control was processed with each slide. The positive tumor cells were quantified twice and these values were expressed as percentage of the total number of tumor cells, and the intensity of immunostaining was expressed. The analysis of the DR5 expression was done separately in tumor area and in a nearby region of normal tissue. RESULTS: The DR5 expression was high in the bronchial epithelium (89% of cases) but this was almost absent in type I & II pneumocytes, lymphocytes and smooth muscle cells. High DR5 expression rate in tumor was seen in 28% (15/53) of squamous cell carcinomas, in 47% (15/32) of adenocarcinomas and, in 50% (2/4) of large cell carcinomas. The DR5 expression did not show any statistical significance relationship with the T stage, N stage, or survival. However, the DR5 expression showed significant inverse correlation with the p53 expression. (p<0.01). CONCLUSION: We demonstrated that the DR5 expression in NSCLC via immunohistochemical analysis is relatively tumor-specific except for that in the normal bronchial epithelium and it is significantly dependent on the p53 status. This might be in vivo evidence for the significance of the DR5 gene as a p53 downstream gene.