Abstract In mouse thymic lymphoma 3SB cells bearing wild type p53, ionizing radiation (IR) and UV light are potent triggers of caspase-3-dependent apoptosis. Although cytochrome c was released from mitochondria as expected, caspase-9 activation was not observed in UV-exposed cells. Laser scanning confocal microscopy analysis showed that caspase-9 is localized in an unusual punctuated pattern in UV-induced apoptotic cells. In agreement with differences in the status of caspase-9 activation between IR and UV, subcellular protein fractionation experiments showed that pro-apoptotic apoptosis protease-activating factor 1 (Apaf-1), normally a part of the apoptosome assembled in response to the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, and B-cell lymphoma extra long (Bcl-xL), an inhibitor of the change in mitochondrial membrane permeability, were redistributed by the IR-exposure but not by the UV-exposure. Instead of the sequestration of the capase-9/apoptosome activation in UV-induced apoptotic cells, the extrinsic apoptotic signaling generated by caspase-8 activation and consequent activation of B-cell lymphoma extra long (Bid) to release cytochrome c from mitochondria was observed. Thus, the post-mitochondrial apoptotic pathway downstream of cytochrome c release cannot operate the apoptosome function in UV-induced apoptosis in thymic 3SB cells. The intracellular redistribution and sequestration of apoptosis-related proteins upon mitochondrion-based apoptotic signaling was identified as a novel cellular mechanism to respond to DNA damage in an agent type-specific manner. This finding suggests that the kind of the critical ultimate apoptosis-inducing DNA lesion complex form resulting from the agent-specific DNA damage responses is important to determine which of apoptosis signals would be activated.