Prior investigations document that proliferative signaling cascades, under some circumstances, initiate apoptosis, although mechanisms that dictate the final outcome are largely unknown. In COS-7 cells, ceramide signals Raf-1 activation through Ras (Zhang, Y., Yao, B., Delikat, S., Bayoumy, S., Lin, X. H., Basu, S., McGinley, M., Chan-Hui, P. Y., Lichenstein, H., and Kolesnick, R. (1997) Cell 89, 63-72), but not apoptosis. However, expression of small amounts of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member, BAD, conferred ceramide-induced apoptosis onto COS-7 cells. Ceramide signaled apoptosis in BAD-expressing cells by a pathway involving sequentially kinase suppressor of Ras (KSR)/ceramide-activated protein kinase, Ras, c-Raf-1, and MEK1. Downstream, this pathway linked to BAD dephosphorylation at serine 136 by prolonged inactivation of Akt/PKB. Further, mutation of BAD at serine 136 abrogated ceramide signaling of apoptosis. The present study indicates that when ceramide signals through the Ras/Raf cascade, the availability of a single target, BAD, may dictate an apoptotic outcome.