We previously reported that exposure of DiFi human colon cancer cells to the anti-epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor monoclonal antibody (mAb) 225 resulted in apoptosis, but the mechanisms remain to be elucidated. In the present study, we investigated the effects of a panel of four anti-EGF receptor mAbs, each of which binds to different epitopes of the EGF receptor in DiFi cells, on the induction of apoptosis. We found that each of these mAbs induced apoptosis in DiFi cells. Exposure of DiFi cells to mAb 225 activated the initiation caspase-8, which was detectable between 8 and 16 h after exposure of the cells to the antibody. There was also an activation of the initiation caspase-9, which lagged a few hours behind the activation of caspase-8. Exposure of DiFi cells to mAb 225 also activated the execution caspase-3, which was accompanied temporally by evidence of cleavage of a well-characterized caspase-3 substrate, poly(ADP)ribosepolymerase (PARP). Pre-exposure of the cells to the caspase-3-specific inhibitor DEVD-CHO partially reduced the mAb 225-induced PARP cleavage and apoptosis, whereas pre-exposure of the cells to the caspase pan-inhibitor z-VAD-fmk completely inhibited mAb 225-induced apoptosis. Caspases-3, -8 and -9 were not activated in the cell lines in which mAb 225 only induced G1 phase arrest of the cell cycle. In contrast to the apoptosis of DiFi cells induced by ultraviolet irradiation, which strongly activated the c-jun N-terminal kinase-1 (JNK1) and the caspase cascade, mAb 225-induced apoptosis and activation of the caspase cascade in DiFi cells were not associated with activation of JNK1.