Apoptosis, a programmed, physiological mode of cell death, is important in tissue homoeostasis. Here we report that a new metalloproteinase, graminelysin I, purified from Trimeresurus gramineus venom, induced apoptosis of human endothelial cells as examined by electrophoresis and flow cytometry. Graminelysin I contains only a metalloproteinase domain. It is a single-chain proteinase with a molecular mass of 27020Da. cDNA sequence analysis revealed that the disintegrin-like and cysteine-rich domains of the putative precursor protein of graminelysin I are likely to be processed post-translationally, producing the proteinase domain (graminelysin I). Graminelysin I cleaved the a chain of fibrinogen preferentially and cleaved the b chain either on longer incubation or at higher concentration. Graminelysin I inhibited the adhesion of human umbilical-vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) to immobilized fibrinogen and induced HUVECs detachment in a dose-dependent manner. These effects on HUVECs were abolished when graminelysin I was pretreated with EDTA. However, graminelysin I did not inhibit the adhesion of HUVECs to immobilized collagen. HUVECs were susceptible to death after treatment with graminelysin I when they were cultured on immobilized fibrinogen. In contrast, HUVECs were rather resistant to treatment with graminelysin I if they were cultured on immobilized collagen. Furthermore, graminelysin I induced apoptosis of HUVECs in a dose-dependent manner. Similarly, its apoptosis-inducing activity was blocked if it was treated with EDTA. These results suggest that the catalytic activity of graminelysin I on matrix proteins contributes to its apoptosis-inducing activity.