This study examined the contribution of delayed apoptosis of bronchial mucous cells to mucus accumulation in equine recurrent airway obstruction (RAO). In pilot studies, Bcl-2, an apoptosis inhibitor, was detected in airway mucous cells of RAO-affected horses in remission and during acute disease, when most mucus was secreted. To study whether delayed apoptosis results in an increase in the number of mucous cells during disease recovery, six RAO-affected and six control horses were fed hay for 5 days to induce inflammation and then pellets for 7 days to partially resolve RAO before euthanasia. RAO-affected horses had more airway obstruction and luminal mucus than control horses under both management systems. At the time of euthanasia, RAO-affected horses had more inflammation and Bcl-2-positive bronchial mucous cells than control animals. In horses with >10 and <10 neutrophils per microliter of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, >50% and <10% of mucous cells stained positive for Bcl-2, respectively. No differences in mucous cell number or amount of stored mucosubstance were observed between RAO-affected and control horses, but in RAO-affected animals, the amount of stored mucosubstance decreased as the number of neutrophils in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid increased. Because the number of mucous cells was similar in both groups of horses but only mucous cells of RAO-affected horses expressed Bcl-2 during recovery from acute disease, a conclusive role for Bcl-2 in prolonging bronchial mucous cell life could not be determined. Future studies are needed to compare horses that are kept in remission for prolonged periods when all mucous cells are fully developed.