It has been widely accepted that programmed cell death (PCD) is an essential event in palatogenesis and that its failure can result in cleft palate, one of the most common birth defects in the human. However, some conflicting results have been reported concerning the timing of cell death occurring in the fusing palate and therefore the role of PCD in palatal fusion is controversial. In order to clarify whether cell death is indispensable for mammalian palatogenesis, we cultivated the palates of day-13 mouse fetuses in vitro and prevented cell death by treating them with the inhibitors of caspases-1 and -3 or with aurintricarboxylic acid which inhibits the activity of caspase-activated DNase. Even when cell death was almost completely inhibited, palatal fusion took place successfully. Histological examination revealed that in the absence of apoptotic cell death, the medial edge epithelia of opposing palatal shelves adhered to each other and subsequently, the midline epithelial seam was disrupted and disappeared to bring about mesenchymal confluence across the palate. It seems that cell death is not a necessary prerequisite for palatal fusion but it may help to efficiently eliminate unnecessary cells which failed to migrate or differentiate properly.