Werner's syndrome (WS) is an inherited disease with clinical symptoms which resemble premature aging. The Werner's syndrome gene (WRN), which is located on human chromosome 8p12, encodes a predicted protein of 1432 amino acids and shows significant similarity to DNA helicases. We have cloned the full-length mouse cDNA homologue of the human WRN gene encoding a predicted protein of 1320 amino acids and have obtained a full-length 70 kb genomic clone containing the moWRN gene. This gene has been mapped to chromosome 8A3 in mice. The expression of the moWRN gene was increased during apoptosis after IL-2 deprivation, and decreased in the spleen of aged mice. Lymphoid cells isolated from a patient with WS exhibited increased apoptosis after incubation with anti-Fas but not after incubation with the topoisomerase inhibitor VP16. RNase protection reviled dysregulation of the ICE family of apoptosis molecules in the WS cell line. These results indicate that the WS helicase is involved in certain pathways of apoptosis, and defective WS gene expression leads to accumulation of cells that are highly susceptibility to Fas-induced apoptosis.