A conditionally active chimeric form of the c-Myc protein fused to the ligand-binding domain of the estrogen receptor (MycER) was expressed in PC12 cells. Induction of Myc activity resulted in a threefold increase in apoptosis after 5 days when cells were maintained in 1% serum. The effect of Myc overexpression was dependent on its DNA-binding domain but not on its heterodimeric binding protein Max, which is absent in PC12 cells. Preincubation of the c-Myc overexpressing cells with either NGF or bFGF, but not EGF, prevented the Myc-mediated increase in apoptosis, although the signaling pathways used by NGF and bFGF to block cell death differed. NGF-mediated rescue was mediated by the phosphatidylinositol 3'-OH (P13) kinase/Akt pathway while rescue by bFGF was not affected by P13 kinase inhibitors. These results show that Myc can induce apoptosis in PC12 cells in a Max-independent manner and that alternate signaling pathways exist to mediate cell survival.