Increased membrane lipid peroxidation has recently been implicated as being associated with apoptosis. In the present study the addition of 15-hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid (15-HPETE) or 13-hydroperoxydodecadienoic acid (13-HPODE) to A3.01 T cells is shown to induce marked chromatin condensation coincident with DNA fragmentation, indicative of apoptosis. 15-HPETE also evoked an immediate and sustained rise in cytoplasmic calcium which was required for the induction of apoptosis. A3.01 cells transfected with the bcl-2 proto-oncogene were 6- to 8-fold more resistant to apoptotic killing by tumor necrosis factor-alpha, but only 0.4-fold more resistant to 15-HPETE. Thus, Bcl-2 is not capable of protecting cells from undergoing apoptosis following the direct addition of lipid hydroperoxides.