A plethora of physiological and pathological stimuli induce and activate a group of DNA binding proteins that form AP-1 dimers. These proteins include the Jun, Fos and ATF subgroups of transcription factors. Recent studies using cells and mice deficient in individual AP-1 proteins have begun to shed light on their physiological functions in the control of cell proliferation, neoplastic transformation and apoptosis. Above all such studies have identified some of the target genes that mediate the effects of AP-1 proteins on cell proliferation and death. There is evidence that AP-1 proteins, mostly those that belong to the Jun group, control cell life and death through their ability to regulate the expression and function of cell cycle regulators such as Cyclin D1, p53, p21(cip1/waf1), p19(ARF) and p16. Amongst the Jun proteins, c-Jun is unique in its ability to positively regulate cell proliferation through the repression of tumor suppressor gene expression and function, and induction of cyclin D1 transcription. These actions are antagonized by JunB, which upregulates tumor suppressor genes and represses cyclin D1. An especially important target for AP-1 effects on cell life and death is the tumor suppressor p53, whose expression as well as transcriptional activity, are modulated by AP-1 proteins.