Oxidative stress has been shown to be associated with apoptosis (programmed cell death) in a number of cell systems. We earlier reported in vitro cultured Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf9) cells as a model system to study oxidative stress induced apoptosis (J Biosciences 24 (1999) 13) and the inhibition of UV-induced apoptosis by the baculovirus antiapoptotic p35 protein that acts as a sink to sequester reactive oxygen species (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96 (1999) 4838). We now show that UV-induced apoptosis in Sf9 cells, is preceded by the release of mitochondrial cytochrome c into the cytosol and consequent activation of Sf-caspase-1. The inhibitory effect of different antioxidants including scavengers of oxygen radicals such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), alpha tocopherol acetate, benzoate and reduced-glutathione (GSH) on ultra violet B (UVB)-induced apoptosis in cultured Sf9 cells was assessed. Both, cytochrome c release as well as Sf-caspase-1 activation was inhibited by pre-treatment with antioxidants such as BHA and alpha tocopherol acetate, suggesting that these antioxidants inhibit apoptosis by acting quite upstream in the apoptosis cascade at the mitochondrial level, as well as downstream at the caspase level. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.