Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is a highly regulated process used to eliminate unwanted or damaged cells from multicellular organisms. The morphology of cells undergoing apoptosis is similar to cells undergoing both normal mitosis and an aberrant form of mitosis called mitotic catastrophe. During each of these processes, cells release substrate attachments, lose cell volume, condense their chromatin, and disassemble the nuclear lamina. The morphological similarities among cells undergoing these processes suggest that the underlying biochemical changes also may be related. The susceptibility of cells to apoptosis frequently depends on the differentiation state of the cell. Additionally, cell cycle checkpoints appear to link the cell cycle to apoptosis. Deregulation of the cell cycle components has been shown to induce mitotic catastrophe and also may be involved in triggering apoptosis. Some apoptotic cells express abnormal levels of cell cycle proteins and often contain active Cdc2, the primary kinase active during mitosis. Although cell cycle components may not be involved in all forms of apoptosis, in many instances cell proliferation and cell death may share common pathways.