The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been used extensively as a model system for the study of basic biological processes. In this species, apoptosis and aging are both under genetic control. Molecular studies have shown that the death machinery that kills C. elegans cells has remained conserved through evolution and also functions to promote apoptotic death in mammalian cells. At least some of the genes that affect C. elegans life span are also evolutionarily conserved; whether the vertebrate homologs of these genes also influence life span remains to be determined. Although a large number of mutations have been isolated that affect either apoptosis or aging in C. elegans, there is so far no evidence that the genetic pathways that control these processes might overlap.