Apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) is encoded by one single gene located on the X chromosome. AIF is ubiquitously expressed, both in normal tissues and in a variety of cancer cell lines. The AIF precursor is synthesized in the cytosol and is imported into mitochondria. The mature AIF protein, a flavoprotein (prosthetic group: flavine adenine dinucleotide) with significant homology to plant ascorbate reductases and bacterial NADH oxidases, is normally confined to the mitochondrial intermembrane space. In a variety of different apoptosis-inducing conditions, AIF translocates through the outer mitochondrial membrane to the cytosol and to the nucleus. Ectopic (extra-mitochondrial) AIF induces nuclear chromatin condensation, as well as large scale ( approximately 50 kb) DNA fragmentation. Thus, similar to cytochrome c, AIF is a phylogenetically old, bifunctional protein with an electron acceptor/donor (oxidoreductase) function and a second apoptogenic function. In contrast to cytochrome c, however, AIF acts in a caspase-independent fashion. The molecular mechanisms via which AIF induces apoptosis are discussed.