Our previous work showed that tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and FasL induce apoptosis of anterior pituitary cells. To further analyze the effect of these proapoptotic factors, we infected primary cultures from rat anterior pituitary, GH3 and AtT20 cells with first-generation adenoviral vectors encoding TNF-α, FasL or, as a control, β-galactosidase (β-Gal), under the control of the human cytomegalovirus promoter. Successful expression of the encoded transgenes was determined by immunocytochemistry. Although we observed basal expression of TNF-α, and FasL in control cultures of anterior pituitary cells, fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) cell cycle analysis showed that the overexpression of TNF-α or FasL increases the percentage of hypodiploid lactotropes and somatotropes. Nuclear morphology and TUNEL staining revealed that the cells undergo an apoptotic death process. We detected strong immunoreactivity for TNFR1 and Fas in the somatolactotrope cell line GH3. TNF-α, but not FasL, was expressed in control cultures of GH3 cells. The infection of GH3 cells with adenovirus encoding TNF-α or FasL increased the percentages of hypodiploid and TUNEL-positive cells. TNF-α or FasL immunoreactivity was not observed in the corticotrope cell line AtT20. However, adenovirus encoding TNF-α or FasL efficiently transduced these cells and increased the percentages of hypodiploid and TUNEL-positive cells. The expression of β-Gal was detected in all these cultures but did not affect cell viability. In conclusion, these results suggest that death signaling cascades triggered by TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) and Fas are present in both normal and tumoral pituitary cells. Therefore, overexpression of proapoptotic factors could be a useful tool in the therapy of pituitary adenomas.