Fifteen different murine tumours were evaluated with respect to the degree of apoptosis development that occurs in the tumour tissue in the first few hours following irradiation in vivo. Animals were killed at 3 or 6 h following irradiation with 0, 2.5, 10 or 25 Gy. Apoptosis was scored as percent aberrant nuclei by microscopic examination of histological sections made from the tumour specimens. Results showed that three of four mammary adenocarcinomas, one ovarian adenocarcinoma, and one lymphoma displayed at least 10% apoptotic cells after 25 Gy, whereas five sarcomas, three squamous cell carcinomas, and a hepatocarcinoma did not. The time courses and dose responses were similar in those tumours that responded. These data were compared with the known response of these same tumours when analysed using conventional assays. The tumours that did respond by significant apoptosis had longer specific growth delays and lower TCD50 (dose to cure 50% of animals) doses, thus suggesting that an acute apoptotic response following irradiation may be a feature of certain tumours that respond well to irradiation. Additionally, this analysis revealed heterogeneity in the apoptotic response both within an individual tumour specimen and among different tumour types. These observations of intra and intertumour heterogeneity are consistent with the idea that the propensity for apoptosis in tumours is genetically regulated.