One of the functions of the immune system is to recognize and destroy abnormal or infected cells to maintain homeostasis. This is accomplished by cytotoxic lymphocytes. Cytotoxicity is a highly organized multifactor process. Here, we reviewed the apoptosis pathways induced by the two main cytotoxic lymphocyte subsets, natural killer (NK) cells and CD8+ T cells. In base to recent experimental evidence, we reviewed NK receptors involved in recognition of target-cell, as well as lytic molecules such as perforin, granzymes-A and -B, and granulysin. In addition, we reviewed the Fas-FasL intercellular linkage mediated pathway, and briefly the cross-linking of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and TNF receptor pathway. We discussed three models of possible molecular interaction between lytic molecules from effector cytotoxic cells and target-cell membrane to induction of apoptosis.