Mouse DNA (cytosine-5) methyltransferases Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b are expected to be de novo-type DNA methyltransferases. In the present study, we found that exogenously expressed mouse Dnmt3a or Dnmt3b induced abnormal cell clusters at the gastrulation stage in Xenopus embryos. The abnormal cells were judged to be apoptotic from the positive staining with the TdT dUTP nucleotide end-labeling method and the rescue by hBcl-x(L), a Bcl-2 homologue. On the other hand, neither bacterial DNA (cytosine-5) methyltransferase nor Dnmt3b3, one of the three isoforms of Dnmt3b that has no DNA methylation activity, induced apoptosis. In addition, mutant Dnmt3a and the other two Dnmt3b isoforms, Dnmt3b1 and Dnmt3b2, which have no DNA methylation activity due to a change of the cysteine residue in the catalytic center to an alanine residue, retained the ability to induce apoptosis. This indicates that the apoptosis was not induced by DNA methylation activity. The domain of Dnmt3b1 (3b2) responsible for the apoptosis is the catalytic domain in the carboxyl-terminal half.