The tumor suppressor p53 has two alternative effects, causing either cell cycle arrest or apoptosis. These different effects are supposed to be mediated by the transcriptional activation of different target genes. perp, encoding a transmembrane protein of the Pmp22 family, is a transcriptional p53 target exclusively upregulated in apoptotic cells. However, its role during normal development had remained largely unclear. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of a zebrafish perp homolog. Upon overexpression in early zebrafish embryos, perp induces apoptosis. In addition, it contributes to p53-dependent and UV-induced cell death. However, during normal zebrafish development, perp displays a p53-independent and spatially restricted expression in specific cell types and tissues. Antisense-mediated loss of Perp function leads to increased apoptosis in perp-expressing cells of the developing skin and notochord. We conclude that, in contrast to its proapoptotic function in stressed cells, Perp plays an antiapoptotic role during normal zebrafish development to regulate tissue-specific cell survival.Cell Death and Differentiation advance online publication, 5 November 2004; doi:10.1038/sj.cdd.4401519.