It has been suggested that genes that regulate apoptotic cell death may play an important role in determining the sensitivity of tumor cells to chemotherapy. We have recently cloned a member of the bcl-2 family, bcl- x. To test whether bcl-XL expression affects the sensitivity of tumor cells to chemotherapy, we have created stable cell lines overexpressing bcl-XL and have tested these cells for resistance to cell death induced by metabolic inhibitors and chemotherapeutic agents. Bcl-XL expression dramatically reduces the cytotoxicity of bleomycin, cisplatin, etoposide, vincristine, hygromycin B, and mycophenolic acid for up to 4 days in culture. Bcl-XL does not prevent cells from undergoing cell cycle arrest in response to these drugs, but rather prevents treated cells from undergoing apoptosis. Cell-cycle analysis on cells treated with the chemotherapeutic agents bleomycin, cisplatin, etoposide, and vincristine, show that the drugs cause growth arrest in different positions within the cell cycle. Bcl-XL expressing cells treated with chemotherapeutic drugs retain their proliferative ability after the drugs are removed. Interestingly, vincristine-treated cells expressing bcl-XL become polyploid after drug removal. These data show that bcl-XL protects cells from a wide variety of apoptotic stimuli, acts in multiple positions within the cell cycle, and confers a multidrug resistance phenotype. The ability of bcl-XL to prevent apoptotic cell death in response to chemotherapy-induced DNA damage and cell-cycle arrest may contribute to the accumulation of chromosomal aberrations within tumors. The expression of bcl-XL in tumor cells is likely to be an important indicator of chemotherapeutic efficacy.