Apoptosis can be mediated by different mechanisms. There is growing evidence that different proteolytic enzymes are involved in the regulation of apoptosis. Cathepsins are proteases which, under physiologic conditions, are localized intralysosomally. In response to certain signals they are released from the lysosomes into the cytoplasm where they trigger apoptotic cell death via various pathways, including the activation of caspases or the release of proapoptotic factors from the mitochondria. Here, we review different mechanisms that induce the release of lysosomal enzymes, and the functional relevance of defined cathepsins in defined models of apoptosis.