Caspases play an essential role in the execution of programmed cell death in metazoans. Although 14 caspases are known in mammals, only a few have been described in other organisms. Here we describe the identification and characterization of a Drosophila caspase, DRONC, that contains an amino terminal caspase recruitment domain. Ectopic expression of DRONC in cultured cells resulted in apoptosis, which was inhibited by the caspase inhibitors p35 and MIHA. DRONC exhibited a substrate specificity similar to mammalian caspase-2. DRONC is ubiquitously expressed in Drosophila embryos during early stages of development. In late third instar larvae, dronc mRNA is dramatically up-regulated in salivary glands and midgut before histolysis of these tissues. Exposure of salivary glands and midgut isolated from second instar larvae to ecdysone resulted in a massive increase in dronc mRNA levels. These results suggest that DRONC is an effector of steroid-mediated apoptosis during insect metamorphosis.