Intact endothelium acts as a sensor and transducer of signals and also provides a nonthrombogenic surface at the blood-vascular wall interface. Hence, mechanisms that maintain the integrity of the endothelium are of interest in physiological and pathological states. In this study we show that apoptosis induced by growth factor and serum deprivation of endothelial cells occurs at all phases of the cell cycle and can be blocked by fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) independently of its mitogenic activity. As the Bcl-2 family of proteins plays a prominent role in regulating cell survival, we attempted to identify Bcl-2 homologues expressed in endothelial cells. Here we demonstrate that, in addition to the previously identified A1, four other members of the Bcl-2 family, Bcl-2, Mcl-1, Bcl-X(L), and Bax, are expressed in endothelial cells. Of these family members, only Bcl-2 is induced by FGF-2. Overexpression of Bcl-2, using a retroviral vector, protects endothelial cells from serum and growth factor deprivation. There is no difference in FGF-2-induced proliferation between Bcl-2-overexpressing cells and those transduced with the empty retroviral vector. At early time points Bcl-2 is not up-regulated, but FGF-2 still has a protective effect. However, FGF-2 protects only adherent endothelial cells but not those that are cultured in suspension. The early effect of FGF-2 is dependent on tyrosine phosphorylation but not on activation of the MAP kinase pathway. Thus, FGF-2 inhibits endothelial cell apoptosis by Bcl-2-dependent and independent mechanisms.