Tyrosine kinase growth factor receptors and Ras/Raf/MEK/MAPK signalling have been implicated in the suppression as well as augmentation of programmed cell death. In addition, a Ras-independent role for Raf as a suppressor of programmed cell death has been suggested by the recent finding that Craf1 interacts with members of the Bcl-2 family at mitochondrial membranes. However, genetic studies of C. elegans and Drosophila, as well as the targeted mutagenesis of the murine Araf gene, have failed to support such a role. Here we show that mice with a targeted disruption in the Braf gene die of vascular defects during mid-gestation. Braf -/- embryos, unlike Araf -/- or Craf1 -/- embryos (L.W. et al., unpublished), show an increased number of endothelial precursor cells, dramatically enlarged blood vessels and apoptotic death of differentiated endothelial cells. These results establish Braf as a critical signalling factor in the formation of the vascular system and provide the first genetic evidence for an essential role of Raf gene in the regulation of programmed cell death.