Apoptosis is a genetically determined cell suicidal program that plays critical roles in many physiological and pathological processes. In this study, we report the cloning and characterization of a novel human gene, nuclear apoptosis-inducing factor 1 (NAIF1), overexpression of which induces apoptosis in cells. Human NAIF1 is located on chromosome 9q34.11 and encodes 327 amino acids with a homeodomain-like region and two nuclear localization signals at its N-terminal region. NAIF1 is conserved across diverse species, including human, mouse, crab-eating macaque, dog, chicken and frog, and shares no obvious homology to any known genes or proteins. Northern blot analysis revealed wide expression of NAIF1 mRNA throughout human tissues. NAIF1 was predominantly localized in the nucleus. Overexpression of NAIF1 inhibited cell growth and induced apoptosis. Furthermore, NAIF1 transfection caused both decreases in mitochondrial membrane potential and caspase-3 activation. In summary, NAIF1 is a nuclear protein that induces apoptosis when overexpressed.