It is now known that caspase-3-like protease activation can promote Bcl- 2 cleavage and mitochondrial cytochrome c release and that these events can lead to further downstream caspase activation. NO has been proposed as a potent, endogenous inhibitor of caspase-3-like protease activity. Experiments were carried out to determine whether NO could interrupt Bcl-2 cleavage or cytochrome c release by the inhibition of caspase activity linking these events. NO inhibited the capacity of purified caspase-3 to cleave recombinant Bcl-2. Both Bcl-2 cleavage and cytochrome c release were inhibited in tumor necrosis factor α- and actinomycin D-treated MCF-7 cells exposed to NO donors. The NO-mediated inhibition of Bcl-2 cleavage and cytochrome c release occurred in association with an inhibition of apoptosis and caspase-3-like activation. Thus, NO suppresses a key step in the positive feedback amplification of apoptotic signaling by preventing Bcl-2 cleavage and cytochrome c release.