Interleukin-1 beta converting enzyme (ICE) is a cytoplasmic cysteine protease required for generating the bioactive form of the interleukin-1 beta cytokine from its inactive precursor. We report the identification of ICH-2, a novel human gene encoding a member of the ICE cysteine protease family, and characterization of its protein product. ICH-2 mRNA is widely expressed in human tissues in a pattern similar to, but distinct from, that of ICE. Overexpression of ICH-2 in insect cells induces apoptosis. Purified ICH-2 is functional as a protease in vitro. A comparison of the inhibitor profiles and substrate cleavage by ICH-2 and ICE shows that the enzymes share catalytic properties but may differ in substrate specificities, suggesting that the two enzymes have different functions in vivo.