We previously demonstrated that AKT2, a member of protein kinase B family, is activated by a number of growth factors via Ras and PI 3-kinase signaling pathways. Here, we report the frequent activation of AKT2 in human primary ovarian cancer and induction of apoptosis by inhibition of phosphoinositide-3-OH kinase (PI 3-kinase)/Akt pathway. In vitro AKT2 kinase assay analyses in 91 ovarian cancer specimens revealed elevated levels of AKT2 activity (>3-fold) in 33 cases (36.3%). The majority of tumors displaying activated AKT2 were high grade and stages III and IV. Immunostaining and Western blot analyses using a phospho-ser-473 Akt antibody that detects the activated form of AKT2 (AKT2 phosphorylated at serine-474) confirmed the frequent activation of AKT2 in ovarian cancer specimens. Phosphorylated AKT2 in tumor specimens localized to the cell membrane and cytoplasm but not the nucleus. To address the mechanism of AKT2 activation, we measured in vitro PI 3-kinase activity in 43 ovarian cancer specimens, including the 33 cases displaying elevated AKT2 activation. High levels of PI 3-kinase activity were observed in 20 cases, 15 of which also exhibited AKT2 activation. The remaining five cases displayed elevated AKT1 activation. Among the cases with elevated AKT2, but not PI 3-kinase activity (18 cases), three showed down-regulation of PTEN protein expression. Inhibition of PI 3-kinase/AKT2 by wortmannin or LY294002 induces apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells exhibiting activation of the PI 3-kinase/AKT2 pathway. These findings demonstrate for the first time that activation of AKT2 is a common occurrence in human ovarian cancer and that PI 3-kinase/Akt pathway may be an important target for ovarian cancer intervention.