Apoptosis is defined by several unique morphological nuclear changes, such as chromatin condensation and nuclear fragmentation. These changes are triggered by the activation of a family of cysteine proteases called caspases, and caspase-activated DNase (CAD/DFF40) and lamin protease (caspase-6) have been implicated in some of these changes. CAD/DFF40 induces chromatin condensation in purified nuclei, but distinct caspase-activated factor(s) may be responsible for chromatin condensation. Here we use an in vitro system to identify a new nuclear factor, designated Acinus, which induces apoptotic chromatin condensation after cleavage by caspase-3 without inducing DNA fragmentation. Immunodepletion experiments showed that Acinus is essential for apoptotic chromatin condensation in vitro, and an antisense study revealed that Acinus is also important in the induction of apoptotic chromatin condensation in cells.