Expression of Bcl-2, Bax, p53 and induction of apoptosis were studied in cisplatin or Taxol treated monolayer and spheroid cultures of ovarian cancer cell lines (SKOV-3, UL-1, UL-3C). While cisplatin (15-75 microg/ml) induced apoptosis in monolayer and spheroid cultures, Taxol (100-800 nM) induced fragmentation in monolayers only. Cisplatin induced up to 5-fold DNA fragmentation in monolayers, while 3-fold (UL-3C, SKOV-3), and 1.5-fold (UL-1) in spheroids. Taxol treatment of monolayers resulted in the characteristic phosphorylation of Bcl-2, which was not demonstrated in spheroid cultures. Bax expression was reduced in spheroids following cisplatin or Taxol treatment, while p53 levels remained unchanged.