Much of what we know about apoptosis in human cells stems from pioneering genetic studies in the nematode C. elegans. However, one important way in which the regulation of mammalian cell death appears to differ from that of its nematode counterpart is in the employment of TNF and TNF receptor superfamilies. No members of these families are present in C. elegans, yet TNF factors play prominent roles in mammalian development and disease. Here, we describe the cloning and characterization of Eiger, a unique TNF homolog in Drosophila. Like a subset of mammalian TNF proteins, Eiger is a potent inducer of apoptosis. Unlike its mammalian counterparts, however, the apoptotic effect of Eiger does not require the activity of the caspase-8 homolog DREDD, but it completely depends on its ability to activate the JNK pathway. Eiger-induced cell death requires the caspase-9 homolog DRONC and the Apaf-1 homolog DARK. Our results suggest that primordial members of the TNF superfamily can induce cell death indirectly by triggering JNK signaling, which, in turn, causes activation of the apoptosome. A direct mode of action via the apical FADD/caspase-8 pathway may have been coopted by some TNF signaling systems only at subsequent stages of evolution.