The orphan nuclear receptor TR3/Nur77 has emerged as a viable candidate in the coordinate regulation of cell proliferation and apoptosis, essential for maintaining normal architecture in rapidly renewing tissues such as the colonic mucosa. TR3 induces apoptosis in a number of cell lineages exposed to proapoptotic stimuli by directly targeting the mitochondria, inducing cytochrome c release. Here we report a distinctly different mechanism of TR3-mediated apoptosis in colon cancer cells. Nucleus-to-cytoplasm translocation of a green fluorescent protein-TR3 construct, but not its direct mitochondrial targeting, was associated with apoptosis induced by the short-chain fatty acid, butyrate. Similar results were observed for the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, sulindac, and the chemotherapeutic drug, 5-fluorouracil. A mutant TR3 construct lacking DNA-binding ability exerted a potent proapoptotic effect in colon cancer cells that was associated with cytochrome c release, an action dependent upon cytoplasmic localization of the construct, but, again, not its direct mitochondrial targeting. We identified a potential role for BAX recruitment to the mitochondria, secondary to cytoplasmic translocation of TR3, in inducing cytochrome c release and in mediating apoptosis. Therefore, TR3 translocation from the nucleus may initiate the apoptotic cascade in colon cancer cells by stimulating other cytosolic proapoptotic molecules to associate with mitochondria.