Gangliosides induce apoptosis in the cells of the IL-2-dependent cytotoxic mouse line CTLL-2. Upon incubation with gangliosides for 24 h, their effect resulting in appearance of apoptotic cells, falls in a series GM2 > GM3 > GM1 > GD1a > GD1b > GT1b. In the presence of rIL-2, apoptosis induced by GM1 is suppressed, whereas that induced by GM2 is enhanced (the effect of intracellular agent C2-Cer is independent of this cytokine). The GM1-induced apoptosis is cancelled by the caspase I inhibitor. The gangliosides under study are not able to induce apoptosis in the promyelocyte leukemia cell line HL-60. Physiological aspects of the phenomenon found are discussed.