Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires' disease and Pontiac fever, replicates within and eventually kills human macrophages. In this study, we show that L. pneumophila is cytotoxic to HL-60 cells, a macrophage-like cell line. We demonstrate that cell death mediated by L. pneumophila occurred at least in part through apoptosis, as shown by changes in nuclear morphology, an increase in the proportion of fragmented host cell DNA, and the typical ladder pattern of DNA fragmentation indicative of apoptosis. We further sought to determine whether potential virulence factors like the metalloprotease and the macrophage infectivity potentiator of L. pneumophila are involved in the induction of apoptosis. None of these factors are essential for the induction of apoptosis in HL-60 cells but may be involved in other cytotoxic mechanisms that lead to accidental cell death (necrosis). The ability of L. pneumophila to promote cell death may be important for the initiation of infection, bacterial survival, and escape from the host immune response. Alternatively, the triggering of apoptosis in response to bacterial infection may have evolved as a means of the host immune system to reduce or inhibit bacterial replication.