To evade the immune system, the etiologic agent of plague, Yersinia pestis, injects an exceptionally active tyrosine phosphatase called YopH into host cells using a type III secretion system. We recently reported that YopH acutely inhibits T cell antigen receptor signaling by dephosphorylating the Lck tyrosine kinase. Here, we show that prolonged presence of YopH in primary T cells or Jurkat T leukemia cells causes apoptosis, detected by annexin V binding, mitochondrial breakdown, caspase activation, and internucleosomal fragmentation. YopH also causes cell death when expressed in HeLa cells, and this cell death was inhibited by YopH-specific small molecule inhibitors. Cell death induced by YopH was also prevented by caspase inhibition or co-expression of Bcl-xL. We conclude that YopH not only paralyzes T cells acutely, but also ensures that the cells will not recover to induce a protective immune response but instead undergo mitochondrially regulated programmed cell death.