We cloned a new inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) homolog, SfIAP, from Spodoptera frugiperda Sf-21 cells, a host of insect baculoviruses. SfIAP contains two baculovirus IAP repeat domains followed by a RING domain. SfIAP has striking amino acid sequence similarity with baculoviral IAPs, CpIAP and OpIAP, suggesting that baculoviral IAPs may be host-derived genes. SfIAP and baculoviral CpIAP inhibit Bax but not Fas-induced apoptosis in human cells. Their apoptosis-suppressing activity in mammalian cells requires both baculovirus IAP repeat and RING domains. Further biochemical data suggest that SfIAP and CpIAP are specific inhibitors of mammalian caspase-9, the pinnacle caspase in the mitochondria/cytochrome c pathway for apoptosis, but are not inhibitors of downstream caspase-3 and caspase-7. Thus the mechanisms by which insect and baculoviral IAPs suppress apoptosis may involve inhibition of an insect caspase-9 homologue. Peptides representing the IAP-binding domain of the Drosophila cell death protein Grim abrogated human caspase suppression by SfIAP and CpIAP, implying evolutionary conservation of the functions of IAPs and their inhibitors.