Transgenic mice that overexpress the anti-apoptotic gene bcl-xL under the control of the keratin 14 promoter have significantly shorter hair than non-transgenic littermates. The deficit in hair length correlated with a decrease in the duration of anagen, the growth phase of the hair cycle. A prolongation in telogen, the resting phase of the hair cycle, was also observed in adult animals. In the developing hair bulb, bcl-xL transgene expression was observed exclusively in the outer root sheath (ORS) cells. Bcl-xL expression enhanced the survival of ORS cells treated with apoptotic stimuli. The results suggest that preventing the apoptotic death of ORS cells during anagen leads to a more rapid termination of progenitor cell commitment/proliferation, while the increased survival of ORS cells during telogen delays the initiation of a new hair cycle. ORS cells produce fibroblast growth factor-5 (FGF-5), which acts in a paracrine fashion to terminate precursor cell division during anagen. The short hair phenotype of bcl-xL transgenic mice was substantially reversed in FGF-5-deficient mice. Thus, the production of growth inhibitory factors by ORS cells may provide a mechanism through which the hair-growth cycle is regulated by cell survival.