The terminal differentiation and elimination of the embryo-suspensor is the earliest manifestation of programmed cell death (PCD) during plant ontogenesis. Molecular regulation of suspensor PCD remains poorly understood. Norway spruce (Picea abies) embryos provide a powerful model for studying embryo development because of their large size, sequenced genome, and the possibility to obtain a large number of embryos at a specific developmental stage through somatic embryogenesis. Here, we have carried out global gene expression analysis of the Norway spruce embryo-suspensor versus embryonal mass (a gymnosperm analogue of embryo proper) using RNA sequencing. We have identified that suspensors have enhanced expression of the NAC domain-containing transcription factors, XND1 and ANAC075, previously shown to be involved in the initiation of developmental PCD in Arabidiopsis. The analysis has also revealed enhanced expression of Norway spruce homologues of the known executioners of both developmental and stress-induced cell deaths, such as metacaspase 9 (MC9), cysteine endopeptidase-1 (CEP1) and ribonuclease 3 (RNS3). Interestingly, a spruce homologue of bax inhibitor-1 (PaBI-1, for Picea abies BI-1), an evolutionarily conserved cell death suppressor, was likewise up-regulated in the embryo-suspensor. Since Arabidopsis BI-1 so far has been implicated only in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-stress induced cell death, we investigated its role in embryogenesis and suspensor PCD using RNA interference (RNAi). We have found that PaBI-1-deficient lines formed a large number of abnormal embryos with suppressed suspensor elongation and disturbed polarity. Cytochemical staining of suspensor cells has revealed that PaBI-1 deficiency suppresses vacuolar cell death and induces necrotic type of cell death previously shown to compromise embryo development. This study demonstrates that a large number of cell-death components are conserved between angiosperms and gymnosperms and establishes a new role for BI-1 in the progression of vacuolar cell death.