Sporadic aortic aneurysm and dissections (AADs) are common vascular diseases that carry a high mortality rate. ADAMTS-4 (a disintegrin-like and metalloproteinase with thrombospondin motifs-4) is a secreted proteinase involved in inflammation and matrix degradation. We previously showed ADAMTS-4 levels were increased in human sporadic descending thoracic AAD (TAAD) samples. Here, we provide evidence that ADAMTS-4 contributes to aortic destruction and sporadic AAD development. In a mouse model of sporadic AAD induced by a high-fat diet and angiotensin II infusion, ADAMTS-4 deficiency (Adamts-4-/-) significantly reduced challenge-induced aortic diameter enlargement, aneurysm formation, dissection and aortic rupture. Aortas in Adamts-4-/- mice showed reduced elastic fibre destruction, versican degradation, macrophage infiltration, and apoptosis. Interestingly, ADAMTS-4 was directly involved in smooth muscle cell (SMC) apoptosis. Under stress, ADAMTS-4 translocated to the nucleus in SMCs, especially in apoptotic SMCs. ADAMTS-4 directly cleaved and degraded poly ADP ribose polymerase-1 (a key molecule in DNA repair and cell survival), leading to SMC apoptosis. Finally, we showed significant ADAMTS-4 expression in aortic tissues from patients with sporadic ascending TAAD, particularly in SMCs. Our findings indicate that ADAMTS-4 induces SMC apoptosis, degrades versican, promotes inflammatory cell infiltration, and thus contributes to sporadic AAD development.