Apoptosis is the mechanism by which cells are programmed to die under a wide range of physiological and developmental stimuli. Several mediators of programmed cell death have been identified and signals of apoptosis have been found to utilize common pathways, some of which have been elucidated. This review focuses on a number of apoptotic systems that have been widely studied and discuss recent progress and opinion in these areas. These include studies on Fas signaling, tumor suppressor genes, cell cycle interfaces, stress responses, genetic systems, and the Bcl-2 family. Understanding apoptosis from these perspectives sheds substantial light on processes of biological homeostasis. Furthermore, the ability to manipulate the apoptotic response may lead to novel therapeutic interventions in cancer and other diseases.