Apoptosis is a mode of cell death characterized by distinct morphological features and DNA fragmentation. The program that leads to apoptosis has been considered to be predominantly extranuclear, and a signal transduction pathway to the nucleus exists during apoptosis, while characteristic events occur in the nucleus. As for radiation-induced apoptosis, the signal transduction pathway remains unclear, especially the sites where the primary effect of radiation occurs. In this study, we demonstrate that a cytoplasmic extract prepared from irradiated cells has the ability to cause DNA fragmentation and that caspase-3 is activated in this extract. Normal nuclei of HeLa S3 cells were added to a cytoplasmic extract made from HL60 cells which had been irradiated with 30 Gy of 137Cs gamma rays and were incubated. Agarose gel electrophoresis of the added nuclei showed a characteristic DNA laddering pattern. This reaction was blocked by a caspase-3 inhibitor but not by an ICE inhibitor. These observations suggest that a signal transduction pathway from an unknown target of gamma radiation may exist upstream of caspase-3 during radiation-induced apoptosis.