The immune system provides a useful model system in which to study the signal transduction events involved in the regulation of programmed cell death. Mature lymphocytes have the capacity to survive in the body for prolonged periods of time. During an immune response, cells of the appropriate antigenic specificity must undergo clonal amplification to mount a protective response, and cells participating in inflammatory immune responses need to have the capacity to survive at sites of inflammation. However, upon completion of a successful inflammatory response, the majority of cells produced must die off in order to maintain the homeostasis of the organism. Over the last several years we have learned a great deal about how mature lymphocytes regulated their susceptibility to undergo programmed cell death. Three types of information appear to be used by the lymphocyte to control its susceptibility to undergo programmed cell death. The intrinsic susceptibility of a cell to undergo programmed cell death is determined by members of the Bcl-2 gene family. In addition, extrinsic survival factors, such as IL-2, can initiate signal transduction events that can prevent a cell from initiating apoptosis. Finally, lymphocytes appear to have specific receptors, such as Fas, that can directly induce programmed cell death upon ligand binding. The integration of these three systems is discussed.