Interleukin-15 shares many biological activities with IL-2 and signals through the IL-2 receptor beta and gamma chains. However, IL-15 and IL-2 differ in their controls of expression and secretion, their range of target cells and their functional activities. These dissimilarities may include differential effects on apoptosis. For example, IL-2 induces or inhibits T-cell apoptosis in vitro, depending on T-cell activation, whereas IL-15 inhibits cytokine deprivation-induced apoptosis in activated T cells. Studying whether and how IL-15 modulates distinct apoptosis pathways, we show here that apoptosis induced by anti-Fas, anti-CD3, dexamethasone, and/or anti-IgM in activated human T and B cells in vitro is inhibited by IL-15 in a manner dependent on RNA synthesis. In vivo, anti-Fas-induced lethal multisystem apoptosis in mice is suppressed by a novel IL-15-IgG2b fusion protein. Only IL-15, but not IL-2, completely protected from lethal hepatic failure. Thus, IL-15 is a potent, general inhibitor of apoptosis in vitro and in vivo with intriguing therapeutic potential.