Human neutrophils constitutively undergo apoptosis and this process is critical for the resolution of inflammation. Whilst neutrophil apoptosis can be modulated by a wide variety of agents including GM-CSF, LPS and TNF-alpha, the molecular mechanisms underlying neutrophil death and survival remain largely undefined. Recent studies have shown the involvement of members of the Bcl-2 protein family (especially Mcl-1 and A1) and caspases in the regulation and execution of neutrophil apoptosis. Cell surface receptors and protein kinases, particularly mitogen-activated protein kinases, also play critical roles in transducing the signals that result in neutrophil apoptosis or extended survival. This review summarises current knowledge on the molecular mechanisms and components of neutrophil apoptosis. (C) 2001 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.