© 2015 Elsevier B.V. Apoptosis has been widely studied in order to find methods to increase the life-span and production performance in large-scale animal cell cultures. The use of anti-apoptotic genes has emerged as an efficient method to reduce apoptosis in a variety of biotechnological relevant cell lines, including CHO and hybridomas, alternatively to small molecule inhibitors. It is already known that expression of BHRF1, an Epstein-Barr virus-encoded early protein homologous to the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2, protects hybridoma cells from apoptosis in batch and continuous operation modes resulting in a delay in the cell death process under glutamine starvation conditions. In the present study, the mechanism of action of BHRF1 was investigated in a murine hybridoma cell line. BHRF1 protein was found in the mitochondrial cell fraction both under normal growing conditions and apoptosis-inducing conditions. Remarkably, the expression of the anti-apoptotic gene bcl2 in BHRF1-expressing cells was up-regulated 25-fold compared to mock-transfected controls under apoptosis triggering conditions and its expression correlated with survival of transgenic cultures and cell cycle arrest in G1. Bcl-2 activity was revealed to be crucial for the BHRF1-mediated effect since the addition of specific inhibitors of Bcl-2 (namely HA14-1 and YC-137) resulted in a loss of function of BHRF1-expressing cells under glutamine starvation conditions. Moreover, the interaction of BHRF1 with the pro-apoptotic BH3-only Bim conferred mitochondrial stability to BHRF1 expressing cells under apoptosis-triggering conditions.