Mcl-1 is a recently described homologue of Bcl-2 whose function and biochemical characteristics remain poorly defined. Gene transfer experiments in lnterleukin-3 (IL-3)-dependent myeloid progenitor 32D.3 cells and pro-B-lymphoid FL5.12 cells demonstrated that enforced production of high levels of Mcl-1 protein failed to prolong the survival of cells when cultured in the absence of IL-3, whereas Bcl-2 did delay cell death. Mcl-1 also did not prolong the survival in vitro of 32D.3 cells that had been induced to differentiate into mature neutrophils using Granulocyte-Colony Stimulating Factor (G-CSF), whereas Bcl-2 did. 32D.3 and FL5.12 cells co-transfected with Mcl-1 and Bcl-2 displayed survival kinetics essentially identical to cells transfected with Bcl-2 alone, when cultured in the absence of IL-3, indicating that Mcl-1 neither enhances nor impairs Bcl-2 function. In contrast to the lack of effects of Mcl-1 in 32D.3 and FL5.12 cells, Mcl-1 (like Bcl-2) was able to neutralise Bax-induced cytotoxicity in yeast (S. cerevisiae). Moreover, the recombinant GST-Mcl-1 protein bound specifically to in vitro translated Bax protein, as well as to Bax protein present in detergent lysates prepared from 32D.3 and FL5.12 cells, based on in vitro binding assays. However, Mcl-1 and Bax proteins could not be co-immunoprecipitated from control and transfected 32D.3 and FL5.12 cells, whereas Bcl-2 and Bax were easily co-immunoprecipitated under the same conditions. The findings suggest that while Mcl-1 has the capacity to bind to and neutralise the cell death promoting activity of Bax, other factors such as perhaps additional proteins or undefined post-translational modifications may influence its ability to bind to Bax in vivo and thus affect its function as a cell death blocker.