Typical programmed cell death requires de novo macromolecular synthesis and shares common morphological changes referred to as apoptosis. To elucidate the molecular mechanism of apoptosis, we isolated cDNA clones that are induced in various types of apoptosis by the differential display method. Among such clones, the MA-3 mRNA was induced in all apoptosis-inducible cell lines tested so far, including thymocytes, T cells, B cells and pheochromocytoma. The nucleotide sequence of the MA-3 cDNA predicted an amino acid (aa) sequence of 469 aa, which did not reveal significant similarity to any known proteins and functional aa motifs in databases. The MA-3 mRNA was strongly expressed in the thymus although small amounts of the MA-3 mRNA were ubiquitously expressed in mouse adult tissues. The MA-3 gene was highly conserved during evolution and cross-hybridization bands were found not only in vertebrates but also in Drosophila melanogaster.