To test whether bystander effects occur in vivo after low doses of radiation relevant to occupational and population exposure, we exposed mice to whole-body X-radiation doses (0.01 and 1 mGy) where only a proportion of cells would receive an electron track. We used a precise method to analyze the apoptosis frequency in situ in spleen tissue sections at 7 h and 1, 3 and 7 days after irradiation to determine whether an increase in apoptosis above that predicted by direct effects was observed. No significant changes in the apoptosis frequency at any time after low-dose irradiation were detected. Apoptosis was induced above endogenous levels by five- to sevenfold 7 h after 1000 mGy. Using these data, the expected increases in apoptosis 7 h after a dose of 1 mGy or 0.01 mGy were calculated based on the assumption that induction of apoptosis would decrease linearly with dose. The magnitude of potential bystander effects for apoptosis that could be detected above homeostatic levels after these low doses of radiation was determined. A substantial bystander effect for apoptosis (>50-fold above direct effects) would be required before such proposed effects would be identified using 10 animals/treatment group as studied here. These data demonstrate that amplification of apoptosis even due to a substantial bystander effect would fall within the homeostatic range.