Tubular epithelial cell apoptosis occurs in most animal models of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and in kidneys from humans with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). Induction of apoptosis in cultured tubular epithelial cells results in cyst formation. Induction of apoptosis in the kidney in Bcl-2 deficient mice results in increased proliferation of tubular epithelium and cyst formation. Caspase inhibition reduces tubular apoptosis and proliferation and slows disease progression in the Han:SPRD rat model of PKD. Thus, there is evidence that both epithelial cell apoptosis and proliferation are dysregulated in ADPKD and may represent a general mechanism for cyst growth.