A variety of experimental models indicate that programmed cell death, or apoptosis, of lymphocytes is a key mechanism in the homeostatic regulation of immunity. Apoptosis is important in early B- and T-cell development to delete cells with nonfunctional antigen receptors, and is also critical for censoring self-reactive cells at the immature lymphocyte stage and at various stages after lymphocytes reach maturity. In this article we focus on the role of the apoptosis regulatory gene bcl-x in controlling survival during lymphocyte development and following B- and T-cell activation. Interesting parallels are observed for bcl-x expression between the B- and T-lineages. The available data also indicate that bcl-x and bcl-2 are expressed in reciprocal patterns during the lifespan of a lymphocyte, suggesting unique regulatory roles for these two survival proteins.