Background: Corpus luteum ( CL) regression is known to occur as two parts; functional regression when steroidogenesis declines and structural regression when apoptosis is induced. Previous studies suggest this process occurs by the production of luteolytic factors, such as tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).Methods: We examined TNF-alpha, TNF-alpha receptors (TNFR1 and 2) and steroidogenic acute regulatory ( StAR) protein expression during CL regression in albino Wistar rats. CL from Days 16 and 22 of pregnancy and Day 3 post-partum were examined, in addition CL from Day 16 of pregnancy were cultured in vitro to induce apoptosis. mRNA was quantitated by kinetic RT-PCR and protein expression examined by immunohistochemistry and Western blot analyses.Results: TNF-alpha mRNA increased on Day 3 post-partum. TNFR were immunolocalized to luteal cells, and an increase in TNFR2 mRNA observed on Day 3 post-partum whilst no change was detected in TNFR1 mRNA relative to Day 16. StAR protein decreased on Day 3 post-partum and following trophic withdrawal but no change was observed following exogenous TNF-alpha treatment. StAR mRNA decreased on Day 3 post-partum; however, it increased following trophic withdrawal and TNF-alpha treatment in vitro.Conclusion: These results demonstrate the existence of TNFR1 and TNFR2 in rat CL and suggest the involvement of TNF-alpha in rat CL regression following parturition. Furthermore, decreased StAR expression over the same time points was consistent with the functional regression of the CL.