The aims of this study were to detect spontaneously occurring apoptosis in cultured porcine ovarian cells, to examine the role of growth hormone (GH), tyrosine kinase (TK), protein kinase G (PKG) and cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) in the control of this process, and to determine whether the effect of GH on apoptosis is mediated by TK-, PKG- and cdc2-dependent intracellular mechanisms. We studied the action of pGH (10 ng/ml), blockers of TK (genistein, lavendustin, both 100 ng/ml), PKG (Rp-Br-PET-cGMPS, 50 nM; KT5823, 100 ng/ml) and CDK (olomoucine,
), as well as combinations of GH with these blockers, on the onset of apoptosis in cultured granulosa cells isolated from antral (3-6 mm) porcine follicles. The functional characteristics of an early apoptotic event, DNA fragmentation, were determined using terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL), whilst morphological signs of advanced apoptosis such as pyknosis, chromatin marginalization, shrinkage and fragmentation of nucleus, were detected using routine light microscopy. After culture, some ovarian granulosa cells exhibited DNA fragmentation, which in some cases was associated with morphological apoptosis-related changes (pyknosis, shrinkage and fragmentation of the nucleus). GH significantly reduced the proportion of TUNEL-positive cells. Neither TK nor CDK blockers when given alone, significantly affected the percentage of TUNEL-positive cells although both PKG blockers significantly increased this index. Furthermore, TK and PKG blockers given together with GH, prevented or reversed the inhibitory effect of GH on apoptosis, whilst the CDK blocker olomoucine promoted it. These observations demonstrate apoptosis in porcine ovaries and suggest the involvement of GH, TK, PKG and CDK in the control of this process. They also suggest that the effect of GH on ovarian apoptosis is mediated or regulated by multiple signalling pathways including TK-, PKG- and CDK-dependent intracellular mechanisms.