Mcl-1 is a Bcl-2 family protein which can act as an apical molecule in apoptosis control, promoting cell survival by interfering at an early stage in a cascade of events leading to release of cytochrome c from mitochondria. Mcl-1 has a short half life and is a highly regulated protein, induced by a wide range of survival signals and also rapidly down regulated during apoptosis. Mcl-1 can also readily be cleaved by caspases during apoptosis to produce a cell death promoting molecule. The multiple levels of control of Mcl-1 expression suggest that Mcl-1 plays a critical role in controlling life and death decisions in response to rapidly changing environmental cues and Mcl-1 is required for embryonic development and the function of the immune system. Expression of Mcl-1 may be useful in informing decision making in the treatment of various cancers, and countering Mcl-1 function may be an attractive therapeutic strategy in malignancy, inflammatory conditions and infectious disease where Mcl-1 may play a major role in suppressing apoptosis.