In contrast with protein kinase Calpha (PKCalpha) and PKCepsilon, which are better known for promoting cell survival, PKCdelta is known for its pro-apoptotic function, which is exerted mainly through a caspase-3-dependent proteolytic activation pathway. In the present study, we used the rat GH3B6 pituitary adenoma cell line to show that PKCalpha and PKCepsilon are activated and relocalized together with PKCdelta when apoptosis is induced by a genotoxic stress. Proteolytic activation is a crucial step used by the three isoforms since: (1) the catalytic domains of the PKCalpha, PKCepsilon or PKCdelta isoforms (CDalpha, CDepsilon and CDdelta respectively) accumulated, and this accumulation was dependent on the activity of both calpain and caspase; and (2) transient expression of CDalpha, CDepsilon or CDdelta sufficed to induce apoptosis. However, following this initial step of proteolytic activation, the pathways diverge; cytochrome c release and caspase-3 activation are induced by CDepsilon and CDdelta, but not by CDalpha. Another interesting finding of the present study is the proteolysis of PKCdelta induced by CDepsilon expression that revealed the existence of a cross-talk between PKC isoforms during apoptosis. Hence the PKC family may participate in the apoptotic process of pituitary adenoma cells at two levels: downstream of caspase and calpain, and via retro-activation of caspase-3, resulting in the amplification of its own proteolytic activation.