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Caspase-3 plays an essential role in normal brain development. Recently, a large protein complex known as apoptosome, which catalyzes the activation of caspase-3, has been reported. To investigate structural characteristics of caspase-3 in the developing brain, rat neonatal cortex extract was analysed by gel filtration chromatography. We show here the formation of high molecular complex including procaspase-3 in the extract. When the extract was activated by cytochrome c, caspase-3 recruitment to the apoptosome was not observed, although apoptotic protease activating factor-1 (Apaf-1), caspase-9, and X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP) existed in the apoptosome. These results indicate that procaspase-3 exists as a high molecular weight complex during brain development.