(De-)regulation of apoptosis plays an important role in normal and malignant lymphopoiesis. Apoptosis-regulating genes of the BCL-2 family and the recently identified inhibitors of apoptosis (IAP) family have been implicated in different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). To investigate whether expression of specific apoptosis-regulating genes correlated with different types of lymphoid malignancies, we measured the expression of five BCL-2 family genes, four IAP family genes and SMAC by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction in patient samples. In total, 137 samples from B- and T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), six different NHL types and three control tissue types were analysed. The data were further analysed using cluster and discriminant analysis. Three specific expression patterns were identified for CLL, ALL and NHL respectively. CLL samples, as well as B-ALL and follicular lymphoma samples showed high similarity in the expression of these apoptosis-regulating genes and could be distinguished from each other and other diseases and controls. Discriminant analysis identified three members of the IAP family, C-IAP1, C-IAP2 and SURVIVIN, as the most informative genes to discriminate between these lymphoid malignancies.