Activation of Fas receptor by Fas ligand causes caspase 8 activation and apoptosis in cells and is an important mechanism by which normal tissue homeostasis and function are maintained. Activation of caspase 8 is preceded by the formation of a death-inducing signalling complex (DISC), and a number of redundant mechanisms regulate DISC formation in vivo. Fas receptor is widely expressed in tissues, and dysfunction of the regulatory mechanisms in Fas receptor signalling has been reported in several diseases including autoimmune disease and cancer. This review aims to identify and discuss the various mechanisms employed by cells to alter their sensitivity to Fas-mediated apoptosis by regulating DISC formation. We also discuss a number of defects identified with Fas receptor signalling and the associated pathologies. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.