A hallmark of all forms of neurodegenerative diseases is impairment of neuronal functions, and in many cases neuronal cell death. Although the etiology of neurodegenerative diseases may be distinct, different diseases display a similar pathogenesis, for example abnormal immunity within the central nervous system (CNS), activation of macrophage/microglia and the involvement of proinflammatory cytokines. Recent studies show that neurons in a neurodegenerative state undergo a highly regulated programmed cell death, also called apoptosis. TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), a member of the TNF family, has been shown to be involved in apoptosis during many diseases. As one member of a death ligand family, TRAIL was originally thought to target only tumor cells and was not present in CNS. However, recent data showed that TRAIL was unregulated in HIV-1-infected and immune-activated macrophages, a major disease inducing cell during HIV-1-associated dementia (HAD). TRAIL is also induced on neuron by beta-amyloid protein, an important pathogen for Alzheimer's disease. In this review, we summarize the possible common aspects that TRAIL involved those neurodegenerative diseases, TRAIL induced apoptosis signaling in the CNS cells, and specific role of TRAIL in individual diseases.