Caspase-1 (interleukin-1β converting enzyme) is produced in the form of a latent precursor, which is cleaved to yield a prodomain in addition to the p20 and p10 subunits. It has been established that the (p20/p10)2 heterotetramer processes the latent precursor of interleukin-1β into an active form during apoptosis, but the function of the residual prodomain of caspase-1 (Pro-C1) has not been established. To evaluate the involvement of Pro-C1 in apoptosis, a Pro-C1 expression vector was transfected into the HeLa cell line, which is susceptible to Fas-mediated apoptosis. Expression of recombinant Pro-C1 in HeLa cells enhanced apoptosis mediated by Fas, but not etoposide-induced apoptosis. This enhancement of Fas-mediated apoptosis was abolished by inhibitors of caspase-8 (Ile-Glu-Thr-Asp-fluoromethyl ketone) and caspase-3 (Asp-Glu-Val-Asp-aldehyde) but was only slightly diminished by an inhibitor of caspase-1 (acetyl-Tyr-Val-Ala-Asp-chloromethyl ketone). During apoptosis induced by an agonistic anti-Fas antibody, the activation of caspase-8 and caspase-3 was more pronounced and occurred more rapidly in HeLa/Pro-C1 cells than in the empty vector transfectant (HeLa/vec) cells; in contrast, caspase-1 was not activated in either HeLa/Pro-C1 or HeLa/vec cells. These results demonstrate an additional and novel function for caspase-1 in which Pro-C1 acts to enhance Fas-mediated apoptosis, most probably through facilitation of the activation of caspase-8.