As apoptotic pathways are commonly deregulated in breast cancer, exploring how mammary gland cell death is regulated is critical for understanding human disease. We show that primary mammary epithelial cells from protein kinase C delta (PKCδ) -/- mice have a suppressed response to apoptotic agents in vitro. In the mammary gland in vivo, apoptosis is critical for ductal morphogenesis during puberty and involution following lactation. We have explored mammary gland development in the PKCδ -/- mouse during these two critical windows. Branching morphogenesis was altered in 4- to 6-week-old PKCδ -/- mice as indicated by reduced ductal branching; however, apoptosis and proliferation in the terminal end buds was unaltered. Conversely, activation of caspase-3 during involution was delayed in PKCδ -/- mice, but involution proceeded normally. The thymus also undergoes apoptosis in response to physiological signals. A dramatic suppression of caspase-3 activation was observed in the thymus of PKCδ -/- mice treated with irradiation, but not mice treated with dexamethasone, suggesting that there are both target- and tissue-dependent differences in the execution of apoptotic pathways in vivo. These findings highlight a role for PKCδ in both apoptotic and nonapoptotic processes in the mammary gland and underscore the redundancy of apoptotic pathways in vivo.