The programmed release of apoptogenic proteins from mitochondria is a core event of apoptosis, although ancestral roles of this phenomenon are not known. In mammals, one such apoptogenic protein is Endonuclease G (EndoG), a conserved mitochondrial nuclease that fragments the DNA of dying cells. In this work, we show that budding yeast executes meiotically programmed mitochondrial release of an EndoG homolog, Nuc1, during sporulation. In contrast to EndoG's ostensible pro-death function during apoptosis, Nuc1 mitochondrial release is pro-survival, attenuating the cytosolic L-A and Killer double-stranded RNA mycoviruses and protecting meiotic progeny from the catastrophic consequences of their derepression. The protective viral attenuation role of this pathway illuminates a primordial role for mitochondrial release of EndoG, and perhaps of apoptosis itself.