bcl-x is a member of the bcl-2 gene family, which may regulate programmed cell death. Mice were generated that lacked Bcl-x. The Bcl-x-deficient mice died around embryonic day 13. Extensive apoptotic cell death was evident in postmitotic immature neurons of the developing brain, spinal cord, and dorsal root ganglia. Hematopoietic cells in the liver were also apoptotic. Analyses of bcl-x double-knockout chimeric mice showed that the maturation of Bcl-x-deficient lymphocytes was diminished. The life-span of immature lymphocytes, but not mature lymphocytes, was shortened. Thus, Bcl-x functions to support the viability of immature cells during the development of the nervous and hematopoietic systems.