Apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) is a phylogenetically conserved redox-active flavoprotein that contributes to cell death and oxidative phosphorylation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Caenorhabditis elegans, mouse and humans. AIF has been characterized as a caspase-independent death effector that is activated by its translocation from mitochondria to the cytosol and nucleus. Here, we report the molecular characterization of AIF in Drosophila melanogaster, a species in which most cell deaths occur in a caspase-dependent manner. Interestingly, knockout of zygotic D. melanogaster AIF (DmAIF) expression using gene targeting resulted in decreased embryonic cell death and the persistence of differentiated neuronal cells at late embryonic stages. Although knockout embryos hatch, they undergo growth arrest at early larval stages, accompanied by mitochondrial respiratory dysfunction. Transgenic expression of DmAIF misdirected to the extramitochondrial compartment (DeltaN-DmAIF), but not wild-type DmAIF, triggered ectopic caspase activation and cell death. DeltaN-DmAIF-induced death was not blocked by removal of caspase activator Dark or transgenic expression of baculoviral caspase inhibitor p35, but was partially inhibited by Diap1 overexpression. Knockdown studies revealed that DeltaN-DmAIF interacts genetically with the redox protein thioredoxin-2. In conclusion, we show that Drosophila AIF is a mitochondrial effector of cell death that plays roles in developmentally regulated cell death and normal mitochondrial function.