Neuronal cell death is a key feature of both normal nervous system development and neuropathological conditions. The Bcl-2 family, via its regulation of both caspase-dependent and caspase-independent cell death pathways, is uniquely positioned to critically control neuronal cell survival. Targeted gene disruptions of specific bcl-2 family members and the generation of transgenic mice overexpressing anti- or pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members have confirmed the importance of the Bcl-2 family in the nervous system. Data from studies of human brain tissue and experimental animal models of neuropathological conditions support the hypothesis that the Bcl-2 family regulates cell death in the mature nervous system and suggest that pharmacological manipulation of Bcl-2 family action could prove beneficial in the treatment of human neurological conditions such as stroke and neurodegenerative diseases. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.