Stimulation of the Fas (APO-1, CD95) receptor, which is present on a variety of cells, usually triggers a process of programmed cell death. Systemic injection of anti-Fas antibody into mice leads to fulminant liver destruction resulting from massive hepatocyte apoptosis, and to rapid death. Hepatocytes bear Fas but do not express Bcl-2, a protein that plays, in a number of conditions, a protective role against apoptosis. We have generated mice whose liver expresses Bcl-2 as the result of bcl-2 transgene placed under the control of the hepatocyte-specific alpha1-anti-trypsin gene promoter, but is otherwise not distinguishable from that of normal mice. These mice display a marked to almost total resistance to liver damage induced by anti-Fas antibody injection. This protective effect of Bcl-2 occurs in the absence of significant variations, in the stimulated livers, in the level of expression of other proteins also involved in resistance or sensitivity to apoptosis, namely Bcl-x, Bax, Bad, Bak, and p53. Mice with protected livers, however, die almost as rapidly as normal mice, which indicates that acute lethality results from stimulation of Fas receptors present on other target organs or cells.