Lymphocyte homeostasis is a balance between lymphocyte proliferation and lymphocyte death. Tight control of apoptosis is essential for immune function, because its altered regulation can result in cancer and autoimmunity. Signals from members of the tumour-necrosis-factor receptor (TNF-R) family, such as Fas and TNF-R1, activate the caspase cascade and result in lymphocyte death by apoptosis. Anti-apoptotic proteins, such as FLIP (also known as FLICE/caspase-8 inhibitory protein) have recently been identified. FLIP expression is tightly regulated in T cells and might be involved in the control of both T-cell activation and death. Abnormal expression of FLIP might have a role not only in autoimmune diseases, but also in tumour development and cardiovascular disorders.