Inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) are a conserved class of proteins that control apoptosis in both vertebrates and invertebrates. They exert their anti-apoptotic function through inhibition of caspases, the principal executioners of apoptotic cell death. Recent advances in vertebrates and Drosophila have demonstrated that IAPs use ubiquitin conjugation to control the stability, and thus the activity, of select target proteins. The Drosophila IAP1 gene is an instructive example: it employs at least two distinct ubiquitin-dependent mechanisms of protein destruction. The apoptosis-inducing genes grim, reaper and hid modulate these mechanisms, and determine the outcome.