The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that cytoskeletal actin fragmentation is mediated through caspase-2, specifically examining the ability of a caspase-2 inhibitor to interfere with actin fragmentation, in comparison with a caspase-3 inhibitor. Cardiomyocytes were cultured from embryonic chick heart. The fine structural element of cellular F-actin was visualized by staining cardiomyocytes with NBD-phallacidin. Lovastatin induced a dramatic and concentration-dependent loss of intact F-actin. The selectivity of this effect of lovastatin was demonstrated by the absence of similar changes in F-actin when cardiomyocytes were treated with the apoptotic stimulus palmitate, the metabolism of which produces acetyl CoA, the early substrate of cholesterol synthesis, through the mevalonate pathway. FACS analysis of NBD-phallacidin-stained cells was used to quantify the amount of F-actin loss. Actin fragmentation produced by lovastatin was operative through a caspase-2 pathway, as the caspase-2 inhibitor, z-VDVAD-fmk, significantly blocked lovastatin-induced changes in F-actin, but the caspase-3 inhibitor, Ac-DEVD-CHO, did not. Interruption of the mevalonate pathway was in part responsible for lovastatin's action, as the downstream metabolite mevalonate partially reversed the effect of lovastatin on actin fragmentation. These data indicate a previously unrecognized link between cytoskeletal actin and caspase-2.