Atmospheric gas plasmas (AGPs) are able to selectively induce apoptosis in cancer cells, offering a promising alternative to conventional therapies that have unwanted side effects such as drug resistance and toxicity. However, the mechanism of AGP-induced cancer cell death is unknown. In this study, AGP is shown to up-regulate intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels and induce apoptosis in melanoma but not normal melanocyte cells. By screening genes involved in apoptosis, we identify tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-family members as the most differentially expressed cellular genes upon AGP treatment of melanoma cells. TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) antagonist-neutralizing antibody specifically inhibits AGP-induced apoptosis signal, regulating apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1) activity and subsequent ASK1-dependent apoptosis. Treatment of cells with intracellular ROS scavenger N-acetyl-l-cysteine also inhibits AGP-induced activation of ASK1, as well as apoptosis. Moreover, depletion of intracellular ASK1 reduces the level of AGP-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis. The evidence for TNF-signaling dependence of ASK1-mediated apoptosis suggests possible mechanisms for AGP activation and regulation of apoptosis-signaling pathways in tumor cells.