Development of necrosis is a characteristic feature of glioblastoma but its pathogenesis remains poorly understood. The process of poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation in response to DNA damage is mediated by poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and results in NAD+ depletion. The consequent ATP and energy depletion may result in cell necrosis. Therefore PARP activation is a potential candidate for a regulatory role in the pathogenesis of necrosis in glioblastoma. This study investigated whether there might be a relationship between both PARP expression and poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation, and necrosis in glioblastoma. The pattern of expression of PARP and of poly(ADP-ribose) groups in an archival series of glioblastoma was examined using immunohistochemistry. These parameters were also studied in multicellular tumour spheroids, derived from human glioma cell lines in which central necrosis develops with increasing spheroid diameter. Poly(ADP-ribose) groups were expressed in peri-necrotic tumour cells in glioblastoma. In the spheroid model poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation was seen centrally in pre-necrotic and necrotic cells with increasing spheroid diameter. PARP was widely expressed in viable tumour cells in the glioblastoma sections. In the spheroids, PARP expression, which was initially diffuse, became confined to the outer proliferative zone with increasing diameter. The pattern of expression of poly(ADP-ribose) groups in the spheroids and in glioblastoma raises the possibility that poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation may play a role in the development of necrosis in glioma. The high basal PARP expression in both glioblastoma and the spheroids suggests that this enzyme may have additional roles in glioma cell biology.