Bronchial airway epithelial cells (BAEpC) are among the first cells to encounter M. tuberculosis following airborne infection. However, the response of BAEpC to M. tuberculosis infection has been little studied. This study investigates the response of a human BAEpC cell line (BEAS-2B) to infection with Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette Guerin (BCG). Cultured human BEAS-2B cells were experimentally infected with BCG. Uninfected BEAS-2B cultures were included as controls. Following infection, BEAS-2B cells were evaluated by various methods at various time points up to 3 days. Cell proliferation was evaluated by cellular bioreduction of 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5- diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay. Distribution of cells along the cell cycle was evaluated by FACS analysis of cellular DNA. Apoptotic cells were identified by cell death ELISA and the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end-labeling method. Eighty-four apoptosis-relevant genes were screened by PCR gene microarray. Translation of Fas, Fas ligand (Fas-L), and Fas-associated death domain (FADD) were evaluated quantitatively by real-time PCR. Expression of Fas and FADD proteins was evaluated by immunofluorescence and Western blot. Activity of caspase-3 and caspase-8 was evaluated by colorimetric assay of their enzymatic activity. BCG infection of BEAS-2B cells inhibits proliferation, induces cell cycle arrest at the G0/G1 phase, causes apoptosis, modulates transcription of multiple apoptosis-relevant genes, promotes translation of Fas, Fas-L, and FADD, upregulates expression of Fas and FADD proteins, and increases activity of caspase-3 and caspase-8. Infection with BCG does not cause any significant change in the secretion of TGF-β. The roles of Fas and FADD as mediators of BCG-induced apoptosis in BEAS-2B cells were tested by partial blockade of Fas and FADD expression with silencing RNA. Partial blockade of Fas or FADD expression results in a decreased apoptotic response to BCG infection. In conclusion, BCG induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in BEAS-2B cells. BCG induced apoptosis of BEAS-2B cells via the Fas death receptor pathway. Copyright © 2007 the American Physiological Society.