In this study we report that the baculovirus p35 anti-apoptotic protein prevents cell death by quenching free radicals at a very upstream step in the apoptotic pathway. Mitochondria of activated rat peritoneal macrophages as well as Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf9) insect cells, following treatment with oxidants, H2O2/UVB irradiation, release cytochrome c followed by activation of caspase-3. Transfection of macrophages/Sf9 cells with a construct carrying the p35 gene under the CMV/HSP promoters resulted in p35 expression and consequent arrest of oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. p35 expression also inhibited cytochrome c release from the mitochondria of oxidant-exposed cells and blocked caspase-3 activation. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.