Death receptor- or mitochondrion-dependent apoptosis is initiated by the recruitment and activation of apical caspases in the apoptosis signaling pathways. In death receptor-mediated apoptosis, engagement of death receptors leads to the formation of the death-inducing signaling complex (DISC) containing the death receptors, adaptor proteins, caspase-8 and caspase-10. In mitochondrion-dependent apoptosis, release of cytochrome C into the cytosol results in the formation of apoptosome containing cytochrome C, Apaf-1 and caspase-9. Caspase-8, caspase-10 and caspase-9 are believed to be the initiator caspases at the top of the caspase signaling cascade. Recruitment of caspases to DISC and apoptosome leads to their activation by dimer formation. Recent biochemical and structural analyses of components in the DISC and apoptosome shed new lights on their roles in inducing the onset of apoptosis signaling.