Bcl-2-family members (Bcl-2, Bax, Bcl-w and Bcl-x(L)) are crucial integrators of signals for cell survival and death; the pro- or antiapoptotic activities of these proteins are regulated by their subcellular localization. Bcl-2 directly inserts into the membranes, where it acts; however, Bax requires a stimulus-dependent translocation from an inactive cytosolic to an active membrane-inserted state. Recently, a novel mechanism is described for the survival factor Bcl-w, which is active while weakly associated with mitochondria. In apoptotic cells, a BH3-only protein neutralizes the survival activity of Bcl-w by binding to its "hydrophobic pockets", thereby releasing its C-terminal domain and allowing its insertion into the membrane. Here, we discuss the importance of this finding for a better understanding of the action mode of Bcl-w and other Bcl-2-family members.