Pituitary gonadotropins, follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, are the key regulators of ovarian folliculogenesis; these are known to be directly or indirectly modulated by many intraovarian factors. Our group has identified and studied one such novel peptide from human ovarian follicular fluid. Its partial N-terminal eight amino acid sequence has been deduced, referred to as octapeptide (OP). OP induces follicular atresia in mice and interferes with normal ovarian function in non-human primates, this action being similar to the native peptide. Thus, in this study, an attempt has been made to elucidate the mechanism of action of the synthetic OP by studying the pathway of follicular atresia in mouse ovary. Changes in granulosa cells were studied using various apoptotic markers by flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. An increase in apoptotic cell population in atretic- and peptide-treated groups was observed compared with normal controls. Interestingly, both these groups exhibited differences in the apoptotic pathway. Results showed that the mitochondrial pathway was predominant in the atretic group, whereas the Fas-FasL pathway was predominant in the peptide-treated groups. The ultrastructural study also showed apoptotic changes in the OP-treated and atretic groups; the pattern of apoptosis differed at the subcellular level.