Tocotrienols and tocopherols represent the 2 subgroups within the vitamin E family of compounds, but tocotrienols display significantly greater apoptotic activity against a variety of cancer cell types. However, the exact mechanism mediating tocotrienol-induced apoptosis is not understood. Studies were conducted to determine the effects of tocotrienols on mitochondrial-stress-mediated apoptotic signaling in neoplastic +SA mammary epithelial cells grown in vitro. Exposure for 24 h to 0-20 micromol/L gamma-tocotrienol resulted in a dose-responsive increase in +SA cells undergoing apoptosis, as determined by flow cytometric analysis of Annexin V staining. However, tocotrienol-induced apoptosis was not associated with a disruption or loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, or the release of mitochondrial cytochrome c into the cytoplasm, as determined by JC-1 flow cytometric staining and ELISA assay, respectively. Interestingly, apoptotic +SA cells showed a paradoxical decrease in mitochondrial levels of pro-apoptotic proteins Bid, Bax, and Bad, and a corresponding increase in mitochondrial levels of anti-apoptotic proteins, Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, suggesting that mitochondrial membrane stability and integrity might actually be enhanced for a limited period of time following acute tocotrienol exposure. In summary, these findings clearly demonstrate that tocotrienol-induced apoptosis occurs independently of mitochondrial stress apoptotic signaling in neoplastic +SA mammary epithelial cells.