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To discuss current aspects of our understanding of the role of apoptosis in lung injury.Review of English language literature.Apoptosis is a process that produces timely death in senescent cells. Apoptosis is important in developmental biology and in remodeling of tissues during repair. Many apoptosis pathways converge in intracellular protease cascades that lead to DNA cleavage and cell death. Apoptosis pathways can be triggered by surface receptors, which interact with soluble proteins or membrane-bound proteins, such as Fas ligand. Fas ligand accumulates in soluble form at sites of tissue inflammation and has the potential to initiate apoptosis of leukocytes, epithelial cells, and other parenchymal cells. Dysregulation of apoptosis pathways could contribute to the epithelial injury that is characteristic of acute lung injury in humans. The effects of Fas ligand are modulated by factors in lung fluids, such as cytokines (e.g., transforming growth factor-β, surfactant protein A, and angiotensin II) and a specific Fas ligand decoy receptor (DcR3).Strategies to block apoptosis pathways could be useful in limiting some forms of acute lung injury in humans.