Apoptosis and mitosis are often thought to share certain morphological similarities and therefore to be regulated by similar sets of enzymes. In this study, the Golgi apparatus and nuclear lamina were examined in PC12 cells and rat superior cervical ganglion neurons undergoing apoptosis in response to withdrawal of nerve growth factor or addition of staurosporine. We found that the Golgi apparatus disperses during apoptosis, without obvious degradation, in a manner similar to that occurring in mitosis. In contrast, the nuclear lamina did not become completely solubilized during apoptosis, as occurs in mitosis, but remained as a distinct structure around the nucleus, although some degradation of nuclear lamins was seen. To assess the integrity of the nuclear envelope, fluorescent probes were introduced into the cytoplasm of live and dying cells. High molecular weight tracers were still excluded from the nuclei of apoptotic cells, demonstrating the continued existence of a functional nuclear barrier. These data suggest, therefore, that cell death is unlikely to occur simply as a result of inappropriate activation of cell cycle enzymes.