Noninvasive detection of cell death has the potential for definitive diagnosis and monitoring treatment outcomes in real time. Reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) fluorescence intensity has long been used as a noninvasive optical probe of metabolic states. NADH fluorescence lifetime has recently been studied for its potential as an alternative optical probe of cellular metabolic states and cell death. In this study, we investigated the potential using NADH fluorescence intensity and/or lifetime to detect poly(adenosine-5′-diphosphate-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1)-mediated cell death in HeLa cells. We also examined if NADH signals respond to treatment by pyruvate. The mechanism of PARP-1-mediated cell death has been well studied that extensive PARP-1 activation leads to cytosolic nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide depletion resulting in glycolytic inhibition, mitochondrial failure, and death. Pyruvate could restore electron transport chain to prevent energy failure and death. Our results show that NADH fluorescence lifetime, not intensity, responded to PARP-1-mediated cell death and the rescue effect of pyruvate. This lifetime change of NADH fluorescence happened before the collapse of mitochondrial membrane potential and mitochondrial uncoupling. Together with our previous findings in staurosporine-induced cell death, we suggest that NADH fluorescence lifetime increase during cell death is mainly due to increased protein-protein interactions but not the intracellular NADH content.