Oxygen radicals are important components of metazoan apoptosis. We have found that apoptosis can be induced in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae by depletion of glutathione or by low external doses of H 2O 2. Cycloheximide prevents apoptotic death revealing active participation of the cell. Yeast can also be triggered into apoptosis by a mutation in CDC48 or by expression of mammalian bax. In both cases, we show oxygen radicals to accumulate in the cell, whereas radical depletion or hypoxia prevents apoptosis. These results suggest that the generation of oxygen radicals is a key event in the ancestral apoptotic pathway and offer an explanation for the mechanism of bax-induced apoptosis in the absence of any established apoptotic gene in yeast.