The fundamental contribution of the mitochondria and ER to the decision made on the cell's fate has been increasingly recognized. This progress has illuminated the need for the mechanisms these organelles use to initiate and to propagate apoptotic signals. The toolbox of the mitochondria and ER is evolutionary conserved, overlapping and complementary. Furthermore, mitochondria are often closely associated with the ER providing the conditions for a local and privileged communication between the two organelles. The present review is concerned with the spatially and temporally coordinated utilization of Bcl-2 family proteins and Ca(2+) by the mitochondria and ER to control the membrane permeabilization in the mitochondria and to regulate Ca(2+) distribution and the activity of apoptotic proteins in the ER. The apoptotic means of the mitochondria and ER will eventually come together to control the dismantling of the cell by the caspases and other enzymes.