The down-regulation of apoptosis may be an essential mechanism for tumour cell expansion in slowly proliferating tumours such as multiple myeloma. We studied eight myeloma cell lines for the presence of Bcl-2, which inhibits apoptosis, of Bax, which counteracts Bcl-2, of Bcl-x(L) and Bcl-x(S), which act in an anti- and pro-apoptotic fashion, respectively, and of Apo-1/Fas, which induces programmed cell death, when activated by the Apo-1/Fas ligand or the relevant monoclonal antibody (mab). All cell lines constitutively expressed homogenous amounts of Bcl-2, but displayed different amounts of Bax and Bcl-x proteins. The Apo-1/Fas antigen could be detected in seven out of eight myeloma lines, but expression levels varied considerably. The relative expression levels of Apo-1/Fas correlated with that of Bax, but not with that of Bcl-2 or Bcl-x subtypes. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the Apo-1/Fas mab was associated with the relative expression levels of the Apo-1/Fas and with that of the Bax antigen, but not with that of the Bcl-2 and Bcl-x antigens. We further showed that wild-type p53 function is not required for Apo-1/Fas-induced apoptosis, nor is it necessary for the expression of Bax or Apo-1/Fas antigens in myeloma. In conclusion, our results suggest a p53-independent co-regulation of Apo-1/Fas and Bax, as well as a role for Bax in Apo-1/Fas-induced apoptosis in myeloma.