From the coral Galaxea fascicularis, a crude mucus-like extract (MS) and subsequently its purified component (P6) appear to contain a DNase-like activity that indiscriminately digested λDNA, as well as naked genomic DNAs isolated from a multiple-drug-resistant murine leukemia cell line, P388/VCR, and a nontransformed liver cell line, BL8L. However, MS and P6 specifically induced in situ DNA digestion in cultured P388/VCR cells from 30 minutes onward. After 3 days of incubation with MS or P6, DNA degradation coincided with complete killing of P388/VCR. In situ fluorescent labeling of fragmented DNA revealed that P6 induced apoptosis of P388/VCR cells, occurring as early at 1.5 hours. By day 3, all the P6-treated leukemia cells were apoptotic. In contrast, P6 caused neither in situ DNA digestion, nor apoptosis in the untransformed BL8L cells. Whether the DNase-like action of P6 is independent of or responsible for triggering the intrinsic endonuclease activity in the leukemia cell, thus leading to apoptosis, remains an object for further research. Nevertheless, the specificity of the apoptotic action of P6 on P388/VCR cells indicates its potential role in the development of an anticancer agent.