Caspases play an important role in programmed cell death. Caspase-3 is a key executioner of apoptosis, whose activation is mediated by the initiator caspases, caspase-8 and caspase-9. The present study tested the hypothesis that cerebral hypoxia results in increased activation and expression of caspases-3, -8, and -9 in the cytosolic fraction of the cerebral cortex of newborn piglets. To test this hypothesis the activity and expression of caspases-3, -8, and -9 were determined in newborn piglets divided into normoxic and hypoxic groups. Caspase activity was determined spectrofluorometrically using enzyme specific substrates. The expression of caspase protein was assessed by Western blot analysis using enzyme specific antibody. Caspases-3, -8, and -9 activity and expression was significantly higher in the hypoxic group than in the normoxic group. These results demonstrate that hypoxia induces activation and increased expression of both the initiator caspases and the executioner caspase in the cerebral cortex of newborn piglets. We conclude that hypoxia results in stimulation of both the pathways of caspase-3 activation.