The mechanisms that establish immune tolerance in immature and mature B cells appear to be distinct. Membrane-bound autoantigen is thought to induce developmental arrest and receptor editing in immature B cells, whereas mature B cells have shortened lifespans when exposed to the same stimulus. In this study, we used Emu-bcl-2-22 transgenic (Tg) mice to test the prediction that enforced expression of the Bcl-2 apoptotic inhibitor in B cells would rescue mature, but not immature, B cells from tolerance induction. To monitor tolerance to the natural membrane autoantigen H-2Kb, we bred 3-83mudelta (anti-Kk,b) Ig Tg mice to H-2(b) mice or to mice expressing transgene-driven Kb in the periphery. In 3-83mudelta/bcl-2 Tg mice, deletion of autoreactive B cells induced by peripheral Kb antigen expression in the liver (MT-Kb Tg) or epithelia (KerIV-Kb Tg), was partly or completely inhibited, respectively. Furthermore, Bcl-2 protected peritoneal B-2 B cells from deletion mediated by acute antigen exposure, but this protection could be overcome by higher antigen dose. In contrast to its ability to block peripheral self-tolerance, Bcl-2 overexpression failed to inhibit central tolerance induced by bone marrow antigen expression, but instead, enhanced the receptor editing process. These studies indicate that apoptosis plays distinct roles in central and peripheral B cell tolerance.