Bax, one of the bcl-2 family genes, is expressed in a number of untransformed cell lines and various breast tissues, whereas only weak or no expression has been detected in breast cancer cell lines and malignant breast tissue. Human breast cancer MCF-7 cells, which have a weak bax gene expression, were stably transfected with pCX2neo bax, encoding human bax; and two unique clones, MCF-7/bax-1 and MCF-7/ bax-2, that expressed different levels of bax were generated. Sensitivity to cisplatin (CDDP) and etoposide (VP-16) was examined and each stable transfectant was more sensitive to these agents than the parental MCF-7 cells. The degree of enhancement in sensitivity to these anticancer agents was dependent on the expression level of bax. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which quantifies DNA damage, demonstrated that this sensitization was due to apoptosis. Thus, we suggest that exogenous bax-alpha overexpression may be one of the factors determining cellular chemosensitivity in MCF-7 breast cancer cells and that it could be applied therapeutically to enhance chemosensitivity in breast cancer cells.