The angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor captopril has been shown to inhibit fibrogenesis in the lung, but the mechanisms underlying this action are unclear. Apoptosis of lung epithelial cells is believed to be involved in the pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis. For these reasons, we studied the effect of captopril on Fas-induced apoptosis in a human lung epithelial cell line. Monoclonal antibodies that activate the Fas receptor induced epithelial cell apoptosis as detected by chromatin condensation, nuclear fragmentation, DNA fragmentation, and increased activities of caspase-1 and -3. Apoptosis was not induced by isotype-matched nonimmune mouse immunoglobulins or nonactivating anti-Fas monoclonal antibodies. When applied simultaneously with anti-Fas antibodies, 50 ng/ml of captopril completely abrogated apoptotic indexes based on morphology, DNA fragmentation, and inducible caspase-1 activity and significantly decreased the inducible activity of caspase-3. Inhibition of apoptosis by captopril was concentration dependent, with an IC50 of 70 pg/ml. These data suggest that the inhibitory actions of captopril on pulmonary fibrosis may be related to prevention of lung epithelial cell apoptosis.