Activation of ICE/Ced-3 family proteases (caspases) has been proposed to mediate both the granule exocytosis and Fas-Fas ligand pathways of rapid target cell death by cytotoxic T lymphocytes. In agreement with this model, two peptide fluoromethyl ketone caspase inhibitors and baculovirus p35 blocked apoptotic nuclear damage and target cell lysis by the CTL-mediated Fas-Fas ligand pathway. The peptide caspase inhibitors also blocked drug-induced apoptotic cell death in tumor cells. In contrast, the caspase inhibitors blocked CTL granule exocytosis-induced target apoptotic nuclear damage, but did not inhibit target lysis. These results are consistent with recent demonstrations that granzyme B can activate caspases leading to apoptotic nuclear damage, but show that target cell lysis by CTL granule exocytosis occurs by a caspase-independent pathway.