Defects in cell signaling pathways play a central role in cancer cell growth, survival, invasion and metastasis. An important goal of proteomics is to characterize and develop "circuit maps" of these signaling pathways in normal and diseased cells. We have used reverse-phase protein array technology coupled with laser capture microdissection and phospho-specific antibodies to examine the activation status of several key molecular "gates" involved in cell survival and proliferation signaling in human ovarian tumor tissue. The levels of activated extracellular-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) varied considerably in tumors of the same histotype, but no significant differences between histotypes were observed. Advanced stage tumors had slightly higher levels of phosphorylated ERK1/2 compared to early stage tumors. The activation status of Akt and glycogen synthase kinase 3beta, key proteins and indicators of the state of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pro-survival pathway also showed more variation within each histotype than between the histotypes studied. Our results demonstrate the utility of reverse phase protein microarrays for the multiplexed analysis of signal transduction from discreet cell populations of cells procured directly from human ovarian tumor specimens and suggest that patterns in signal pathway activation in ovarian tumors may be patient-specific rather than type or stage specific.