Initial observations that the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae can be induced to undergo a form of cell death exhibiting typical markers of apoptosis has led to the emergence of a thriving new field of research. Since this discovery, a number of conserved pro- and antiapoptotic proteins have been identified in yeast. Indeed, early experiments have successfully validated yeasts as a powerful genetic tool with which to investigate mechanisms of apoptosis. However, we still have little understanding as to why programmes of cell suicide exist in unicellular organisms and how they may be benefit such organisms. Recent research has begun to elucidate pathways that regulate yeast apoptosis in response to environmental stimuli. These reports strengthen the idea that physiologically relevant mechanisms of programmed cell death are present, and that these function as important regulators of yeast cell populations.