Percentages of normal and apoptotic parenchymal cells, fibroblasts and endothelial cells in ovine corpora lutea at 12, 24 and 36 hr following administration of a luteolytic dose of PGF2 alpha were determined and compared to percentages for identical cell types in corpora lutea removed from control ewes on days 10 (n = 5) and 12 (n = 6) postestrus. In corpora lutea obtained from control ewes greater than or equal to 95% of nuclei examined were scored normal for each of the respective cell types with no difference (P greater than .05) observed between luteal tissue obtained on days 10 and 12 postestrus. Following treatment with PGF2 alpha there were significant (P less than .05) reductions in the percentages of nuclei scored normal. Compared to controls the percentage of endothelial cell nuclei scored normal was reduced at 12 hr following PGF2 alpha-treatment; however significant reductions in percentages of parenchymal and fibroblast nuclei scored normal were not evident until 24 and 36 hr, respectively. Consistent with the concept of apoptosis, nuclear condensation and/or margination indicative of apoptosis did not occur synchronously within a given cell type: i.e., irrespective of the time point examined some cells appeared normal, whereas others had undergone nuclear condensation and/or margination. A sequence of events to explain structural and functional changes that occur during luteolysis following the interaction of PGF2 alpha with specific receptors in large steroidogenic luteal cells is discussed.