Apoptosis is an evolutionarily conserved 'suicide' programme present in all metazoan cells. Despite its highly conserved nature, it is only recently that any of the molecular mechanisms underlying apoptosis have been identified. Several lines of reasoning indicate that apoptosis and cell proliferation coincide to some degree: many oncogenes that promote cell cycle progression also induce apoptosis; damage to the cell cycle or to DNA integrity is a potent trigger of apoptosis; and the key tumour suppressor proteins, p105rb and p53, exert direct effects both on cell viability and on cell cycle progression. There is less evidence, however, to indicate that apoptosis and the cell cycle share common molecular mechanisms. Moreover, the interleukin-1 beta converting enzyme (ICE) family of cysteine proteases is now known to play a key role in apoptosis but has no discernible role in the cell cycle, arguing that the two processes are discrete.