Curcumin is a natural pigment that has been shown to induce cell death in many cancer cells; however, the death mode depends on the cell type and curcumin concentration. Here we show that, in Jurkat cells, 50 µmol/L curcumin severely lowers cell survival and induces initial stage of chromatin condensation. It also induces caspase-3, which is sufficient to cleave DNA fragmentation factor 45 [DFF45/inhibitor of caspase-activated DNase (ICAD)], the inhibitor of DFF40/CAD endonuclease. However, the release of DFF40/CAD from its inhibitor does not lead to oligonucleosomal DNA degradation in curcumin-treated cells. Moreover, curcumin treatment protects cells from UVC-induced oligonucleosomal DNA degradation. In biochemical experiments using recombinant DFF activated with caspase-3, we show that curcumin inhibits plasmid DNA and chromatin degradation although it does not prevent activation of DFF40/CAD endonuclease after its release from the inhibitor. Using DNA-binding assay, we show that curcumin does not disrupt the DNA-DFF40/CAD interaction. Instead, molecular modeling indicates that the inhibitory effect of curcumin on DFF40/CAD activity results from curcumin binding to the active center of DFF40/CAD endonuclease.