Claspin is required for the phosphorylation and activation of the Chk1 protein kinase by ATR during DNA replication and in response to DNA damage. This checkpoint pathway plays a critical role in the resistance of cells to genotoxic stress. Here, we show that human Claspin is cleaved by caspase-7 during the initiation of apoptosis. In cells, induction of DNA damage by etoposide at first produced rapid phosphorylation of Chk1 at a site targeted by ATR. Subsequently, etoposide caused activation of caspase-7, cleavage of Claspin, and dephosphorylation of Chk1. In apoptotic cell extracts, Claspin was cleaved by caspase-7 at a single aspartate residue into a large N-terminal fragment and a smaller C-terminal fragment that contain different functional domains. The large N-terminal fragment was heavily phosphorylated in a human cell-free system in response to double-stranded DNA oligonucleotides, and this fragment retained Chk1 binding activity. In contrast, the smaller C-terminal fragment did not bind Chk1, but did associate with DNA and inhibited the DNA-dependent phosphorylation of Chk1 associated with its activation. These results indicate that cleavage of Claspin by caspase-7 inactivates the Chk1 signaling pathway. This mechanism may regulate the balance between cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis during the response to genotoxic stress.