Aims: Cathepsin S is highly expressed in various cancer cells, and it has protumoral effects, including promotion of migration, invasion, and neovascularization. In this study, we show that inhibition of cathepsin S could sensitize cancer cells to tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-mediated apoptosis.Results: An inhibitor of cathepsin S (Z-FL-COCHO; ZFL) markedly induced apoptosis in human renal cancer cells treated with TRAIL. In contrast, combined treatment with ZFL and TRAIL had no effect on normal cells. ZFL downregulated Bcl-2 expression at the transcriptional level in a p53-dependent manner, and overexpression of Bcl-2 also markedly blocked apoptosis induced by combined treatment with ZFL and TRAIL. In addition, ZFL induced downregulation of c-FLIP, and overexpression of c-FLIP blocked the apoptosis induced by ZFL plus TRAIL. Moreover, ZFL increased the expression of Cbl, an E3 ligase of c-FLIP, in a p53-dependent manner, and knockdown of Cbl markedly prevented c-FLIP downregulation and the apoptosis induced by ZFL plus TRAIL. Interestingly, ZFL induced p53 expression via production of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS). We also demonstrated that downregulation of cathepsin S by small interfering RNA sensitized TRAIL-mediated apoptosis in Caki cells.Innovation: These results reveal the importance of cathepsin S on resistance against TRAIL, and inhibition of cathepsin S activity plays a crucial role in TRAIL-mediated cell death of cancer cells.Conclusion: Our results indicated that inhibition of cathepsin S stimulates TRAIL-induced apoptosis through downregulation of Bcl-2 and Cbl-mediated c-FLIP by ROS-mediated p53 expression. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 27, 215-233.