DJ-1 is a conserved protein reported to be involved in diverse cellular processes ranging from cellular transformation, control of protein–RNA interaction, oxidative stress response to control of male infertility, among several others. Mutations in the human gene have been shown to be associated with an autosomal recessive, early onset Parkinson's disease (PARK7). The present study examines the control of DJ-1 expression in prostatic benign hyperplasia (BPH-1) and cancer (PC-3) cell lines in which DJ-1 abundance differs significantly. We show that while BPH-1 cells exhibit low basal level of DJ-1 expression, stress-inducing agents such as H2O2 and mitomycin C markedly increase the intracellular level of the polypeptide. In contrast, DJ-1 expression is relatively high in PC-3 cells, and incubation with the same cytotoxic drugs does not modulate further the level of the polypeptide. In correlation with the expression of DJ-1, both cytotoxic agents activate the apoptotic pathway in the prostatic benign cells but not in PC-3 cells, which are resistant to their action. We further demonstrate that incubation of BPH-1 cells with TNF-related-apoptosis-inducing-ligand/Apo-2L (TRAIL) also enhances DJ-1 expression and that TRAIL and H2O2 act additively to stimulate DJ-1 accumulation but synergistically in the activation of the apoptotic pathway. Time-course analysis of DJ-1 stimulation shows that while DJ-1 level increases without significant lag in TRAIL-treated cells, there is a delay in H2O2-treated cells, and that the increase in DJ-1 abundance precedes the activation of apoptosis. Unexpectedly, over-expression of DJ-1 de-sensitizes BPH-1 cells to the action of apoptotic-inducing agents. However, RNA-interference-mediated silencing of DJ-1 expression results in sensitization of PC-3 cells to TRAIL action. These results are consistent with a model in which DJ-1 is involved in the control of cell death in prostate cell lines. DJ-1 appears to play a differential role between cells expressing a low but inducible level of DJ-1 (e.g., BPH-1 cells) and those expressing a high but constitutive level of the polypeptide (e.g., PC-3 cells). © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.