Abstract Sphingosine kinases (SKs) are key enzymes regulating the production of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), which determines important cell responses including cell growth and death. Here we show that renal mesangial cells isolated from wild-type, SK-1(-/-), and SK-2(-/-) mice show a differential response to apoptotic stimuli. Wild-type mesangial cells responded to staurosporine with increased DNA fragmentation and caspase-3 processing, which was enhanced in SK-1(-/-) cells. In contrast, SK-2(-/-) cells were highly resistant to staurosporine-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, the basal phosphorylation and activity of the anti-apoptotic protein kinase B (PKB) and of its substrate Bad were decreased in SK-1(-/-) but not in SK-2(-/-) cells. Upon staurosporine treatment, phosphorylation of PKB and Bad decreased in wild-type and SK-1(-/-) cells, but remained high in SK-2(-/-) cells. In addition, the anti-apoptotic Bcl-X(L) was significantly upregulated in SK-2(-/-) cells, which may further contribute to the protective state of these cells. In summary, our data show that SK-1 and SK-2 have opposite effects on the capacity of mesangial cells to resist apoptotic stimuli. This is due to differential modulation of the PKB/Bad pathway and of Bcl-X(L) expression. Thus, subtype-selective targeting of SKs will be critical when considering these enzymes as therapeutic targets for the treatment of inflammation or cancer.