Apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) is a mitochondrial flavoprotein that, after apoptosis induction, translocates to the nucleus where it participates in apoptotic chromatinolysis. Here, we show that human or mouse cells lacking AIF as a result of homologous recombination or small interfering RNA exhibit high lactate production and enhanced dependency on glycolytic ATP generation, due to severe reduction of respiratory chain complex I activity. Although AIF itself is not a part of complex I, AIF-deficient cells exhibit a reduced content of complex I and of its components, pointing to a role of AIF in the biogenesis and/or maintenance of this polyprotein complex. Harlequin mice with reduced AIF expression due to a retroviral insertion into the AIF gene also manifest a reduced oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) in the retina and in the brain, correlating with reduced expression of complex I subunits, retinal degeneration, and neuronal defects. Altogether, these data point to a role of AIF in OXPHOS and emphasize the dual role of AIF in life and death.