Nestin is an intermediate filament protein mainly expressed in muscle and neural progenitors. Recently, we reported that nestin is expressed in rat vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), disappears after serum-deprivation and then is re-expressed again following EGF stimulation. As the function of nestin in VSMCs remains unknown, its anti-apoptotic function was investigated in this study. We first showed that cell viability of nestin-depleted cells following H(2)O(2) treatments decreased by nestin RNAi. Further DNA laddering analysis and flow cytometry results demonstrated that this loss of cell viability was mediated through apoptosis. In addition, caspase-9, caspase-3 and PARP were activated in nestin-depleted VSMCs following H(2)O(2) treatments, indicating that nestin has an upstream inhibitory effect on caspase activation. It is well known that EGF serves as a survival factor in rat VSMCs. Here, we show that the cytoprotective effect of EGF was prevented by nestin RNAi. In addition, the inhibition of Cdk5 prevented Bcl-2 phosphorylation and enhanced H(2)O(2)-induced caspase-3 activation as well as subsequent DNA fragmentation. Taken together, these results provide evidence for another cytoprotective role of EGF in that it is mediated through its stimulation of nestin expression which leads to the prevention of caspase activation by Cdk-5-induced Bcl-2 phosphorylation in rat VSMCs.