The tadpole tail, which is twice as long as the body, is induced to resorb completely by thyroid hormone within several days during the anuran metamorphosis. To investigate the underlying mechanism, we undertook two approaches. First, we examined the effect of dominant-negative thyroid hormone receptor (DNTR) on muscle cell death in vitro. The overexpression of DNTR suppressed the death of a tail-derived myoblastic cell line induced by thyroid hormone. Second, tadpole tails were injected with a reporter gene and the DNTR expression construct, and the reporter gene expression in muscle cells was followed during the spontaneous metamorphosis. DNTR overexpression inhibited a decrease of the reporter gene expression that began at stage 57 in the control tadpoles but only delayed massive muscle cell death at stage 63 when tails shrink very rapidly. Some remained even a few weeks after the metamorphosis, although most DNTR-overexpressing cells died by the end of the metamorphosis. These results led us to propose that thyroid hormone induces the suicide of muscle cells (the cell-autonomous death) in the tail between stage 57 and 62 and that both the murder and suicide mechanisms execute muscle cell death in stage 62–64 to remove muscle promptly and completely. Developmental Dynamics 227:246–255, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.