We investigated ADP/ATP exchange mediated by the adenine nucleotide translocator and opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore in homogenates from cerebellar granule cells en route to apoptosis induced by low potassium. We showed that, in the first 3 h of apoptosis, when maximum cytochrome c release had already occurred, adenine nucleotide translocator function was impaired owing to the action of reactive oxygen species, but no permeability transition pore opening occurred. Over 3–8 h of apoptosis, the permeability transition pore progressively opened, owing to caspase action, and further ADP/ATP translocator impairment occurred. The kinetics of transport and permeability transition pore opening were inversely correlated, both in the absence and presence of inhibitors of antioxidant and proteolytic systems. We conclude that, en route to apoptosis, alteration of the adenine nucleotide translocator occurs, resulting in permeability transition pore opening. This process depends on the action of caspase on pore component(s) other than the ADP/ATP translocator, because no change in either amount or molecular weight of the latter protein was noted during apoptosis, as measured by western blotting. Cell death occurs via apoptosis in the presence of cyclosporin A, the permeability transition pore inhibitor, thus showing that permeability transition pore opening, not needed for cytochrome c release, is also unnecessary for apoptosis to occur.