Significant progress has recently occurred in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms mediating vertebrate programmed cell death, or apoptosis. New advances in this field have stemmed from the identification of ICE (caspase-1) as the founding member of the mammalian caspase cell death family. Apoptotic cell death plays an important role in neuronal cell death. Both in vitro and in vivo evidence implicates ICE as an important factor in neuronal apoptosis, especially under pathological conditions. In addition, other caspases, such as caspase-3, have also been shown to be activated and may play a role in pathological neuronal loss. Understanding the basic mechanisms mediating cell death in neurodegenerative disease may lead to the development of novel approaches for the treatment of diseases featuring apoptosis.