Genetic variations such as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in prion protein coding gene, Prnp, greatly affect susceptibility to prion diseases in mammals. Here, the coding region of Prnp was screened for polymorphisms in redeared turtle, Trachemys scripta. Four polymorphisms, L203V, N205I, V225A and M237V, were common in 15 out of 30 turtles; in one sample, three SNPs, L203V, N205I and M237V, and in the remaining 14 samples, only L203V and N205I polymorphisms, were investigated. Besides, C658T, C664T, C670A and C823A SNPs were silent mutations. To elucidate the relationship between the SNPs and apoptosis, TUNEL assays and active caspase-3 immunodetection techniques in brain sections of the polymorphic samples were performed. The results revealed that TUNEL-positive cells and active caspase-3-positive cells in the turtles with four polymorphisms were significantly increased compared with those of the turtles with two polymorphisms (P<0.01 and P<0.05, respectively). In conclusion, this study provides preliminary information about the possible relationship between SNPs within the Prnp locus and apoptosis in a non-mammalian species, Trachemys scripta, in which prion disease has never been reported.