Past studies have shown that serum-free cultures of PC12 cells are a useful model system for studying the mechanisms of neuronal death after neurotrophic factor deprivation. These cultures, as well as NGF- deprived cultures of sympathetic neurons, manifest and endonuclease activity that leads to “apoptotic” internucleosomal DNA cleavage. Overexpression of the proto-oncogene bcl-2 blocks apoptotic death in various cell types. To study the actions of this protein in neuronal cells, we derived PC12 cell lines stably transfected with a cDNA encoding human bcl-2. It is reported here that lines expressing high levels of the exogenous bcl-2 protein are protected from both death and apoptotic DNA fragmentation caused by removal of trophic support. However, expression of high levels of exogenous bcl-2 neither mimics nor interferes with promotion of neurite outgrowth by NGF.