Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP4) catalyzes the formation of ADP-ribose polymers covalently attached to proteins by using NAD+ as substrate. PARP is strongly activated by DNA single- or double-strand breaks and is thought to be involved in cellular responses to DNA damage. We characterized a dominant negative PARP mutant, i.e. the DNA-binding domain of this enzyme, whose overexpression in cells leads to increased genetic instability following DNA damage. In order to study whether PARP activity is also implicated in the process of tumorigenesis, we generated stably transfected HeLa cell clones with constitutive overexpression of dominant negative PARP and investigated tumor formation of these clones in nude mice. We found that inhibition of PARP activity dramatically reduces tumor forming ability of HeLa cells. Moreover, we provide strong evidence that the observed reduction in tumor forming ability is due to increased tumor cell apoptosis in vivo. Viewed together, our data and those from other groups show that inhibition of PARP enzyme activity interferes with DNA base excision repair and leads to increased genetic instability and recombination but, on the other hand, can sensitize cells to apoptotic stimuli and by this mechanism may prevent tumor formation.