beta-Catenin is a known regulator of cell-cell adhesion and transcriptional regulation. However, the role of beta-catenin and its regulation in non-adherent cells has not been examined. Therefore, we examined the role and fate of beta-catenin during hematopoietic cell apoptosis using Jurkat T-acute lymphoblastic and U937 acute myeloblastic leukemia cells. The results presented here demonstrate that the treatment of Jurkat cells with the apoptosis inducers anti-Fas, TRAIL, staurosporine, and etoposide induces proteolytic fragments of beta-catenin, as did TRAIL and staurosporine in U937 cells. In Jurkat cells, beta-catenin was cleaved at both the N- and C-terminal after anti-Fas addition. Cleavage of intact beta-catenin was completely inhibited by caspase selective protease inhibitors. There was a clear accumulation of the large proteolytic fragment in Jurkat cells treated with lactacystin or N-acetyl-leucyl leucyl-methioninal (ALLM). These results suggest that both the proteasome and calpain may recognize the large beta-catenin fragment as a substrate for further degradation. Densitometric analysis demonstrated that the loss of intact beta-catenin was more rapid in the cell nucleus (beta-catenin T1/2 of approximately 1.5h in cytoplasm and 0.5h in nucleus). Down-regulation of beta-catenin-associated transcription was an early event in response to anti-Fas. These results suggest that beta-catenin plays a role in promoting Jurkat survival.