Among the inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs), survivin has attracted special attention through its involvement in human cancer. The mechanism underlying tumour-associated survivin re-expression is not known. We found a correlation between exogenous c-H-Ras oncoprotein and endogenous survivin in a series of rat cell lines, which expressed defined oncogenes. Moreover, human HaCat cells, transfected with a constitutively activated c-H-ras gene, had significantly increased survivin levels. To study the interdependence of the two proteins, we generated a rat cell line that expressed a dexamethasone-inducible c-H-ras construct. Induction of c-H-Ras expression was followed by rapid upregulation of survivin. Conversely, downregulation of the oncoprotein resulted in prompt reduction of survivin to baseline value. c-H-Ras-induced survivin was expressed constitutively and independent of cell cycle progression or proliferation. Compromising Ras-stimulated PI3-K activity and MEK1 by chemicals abolished survivin expression and was associated with apoptotic cell death. Upregulation of survivin appeared to be an important activity of c-H-Ras oncoprotein, since cotransfection of a survivin-antisense construct into c-myc/c-H-ras-transfected primary rat embryo cells resulted in profound reduction of transformed clones. It is tempted to speculate that the frequent presence of survivin in human cancer cells might be a consequence of activated Ras-signalling pathways.