The role of TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) in autoimmune thyroiditis is unclear. We used experimental autoimmune thyroiditis to clarify the contribution of TRAIL to the development of autoimmune thyroiditis. CBA/J mice were immunized with murine thyroglobulin, and spleen cells from these mice were subsequently injected into irradiated recipient CBA/J mice. One week later, the recipient mice were treated with recombinant TRAIL or a control protein. Compared with control animals, TRAIL-treated mice developed a milder form of the disease with a significant decrease in mononuclear cell infiltration in the thyroid and less thyroid follicular destruction. Furthermore, the number of apoptotic thyrocytes and also thyroglobulin-specific T helper-1 cell responses in TRAIL-treated mice was lower than that in the control animals. This study suggests that exogenous TRAIL suppresses the development of autoimmune thyroiditis via altering the function of cells involved in the immune response. These findings may contribute toward a novel treatment autoimmune thyroiditis.