We have cloned and sequenced a chicken homolog to the mammalian interleukin-1β (IL-1β)-converting enzyme (caspase-1) cDNA and have evaluated caspase-1 mRNA expression in various tissues from the domestic hen, including ovarian follicle granulosa and theca layers. The deduced amino acid (aa) sequence of chicken caspase-1 is 44.9% identical to human caspase-1, and contains an active site pentapeptide that is characteristic of the caspase family of cysteine proteases. Of interest, however, is that the putative chicken caspase-1 cDNA is predicted to encode a comparatively short (19 aa) N-terminal prodomain, as well as two Cys residues within the active pentapeptide (QC162C163RG) as compared to the QACRG pentapeptide found in the mammalian caspase-1 sequence. While the chicken caspase-1 mRNA transcript is widely expressed among different tissues, levels are particularly high in the bursa of Fabricius and comparatively low in ovarian follicles at all stages of development. Finally, treatment of granulosa cells with IL-1β, the primary if not sole product of caspase-1 activity, fails to either promote apoptotic cell death or enhance viability in granulosa cells. Considering the relatively low levels of caspase-1 mRNA expression in ovarian follicle tissues plus the inability of IL-1β to alter granulosa cell viability, in vitro, it is concluded that caspase-1 is not an integral part of the apoptotic pathway in granulosa cells. However, the pattern of mRNA expression is consistent with a requirement for caspase-1 mediated IL-1β production in chicken immune tissues.