Bax is a pro-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family of genes which regulate programmed cell death. The Bax protein shares highly conserved domains with Bcl-2, some of which are required for the formation of Bax-Bcl-2 heterodimers. Bax expression is elevated in certain tissues after apoptotic stimuli and can be directly regulated by p53. Bax -/- mice have increased numbers of lymphoid cells and bax -/- neurons survive in culture following nerve growth factor deprivation. Bax can accelerate cell cycle entry in T-cells and has recently been shown to have a tumour suppressor function as well as carrying mutations in certain cancers. Bax can form ion-conducting channels in planar lipid bilayers which may be the biochemical mechanism through which it exerts its multiple effects. Pharmacological manipulation of Bax has implications for many diseases involving apoptosis such as cancer or neurodegenerative disorders.