Caspases are a family of cysteine proteases of critical importance in the apoptotic cell death process. They are normally present as zymogens (pro-caspases) in the cytoplasm of vertebrate and other organisms. In this study we have shown that pro-caspase-3 is localized to cytosol and mitochondria of various rat tissues (brain, heart, kidney, liver, spleen and thymus). Although the majority of pro-caspase-3 was localized in the cytosol, the amount of mitochondrial pro-caspase-3 was significant. The ratio of cytosolic and mitochondrial pools of pro-caspase-3 appeared to vary between different tissues. The higher amount of mitochondrial pro-caspase-3 was found in thymus and spleen, i.e. tissues in which spontaneous apoptosis plays an important role. Our findings provide further support for mitochondrial localization of pro-caspase-3 and the critical role of this organelle in apoptosis.