The gene expression of Bax, Bcl-2, survivin and p53, following in vitro maturation of equine oocytes, was compared in morphologically distinct oocytes and cumulus cells. Cumulus–oocyte complexes (COC) were harvested and divided into two groups: G1 – morphologically healthy cells; and G2 – less viable cells or cells with some degree of atresia. Total RNA was isolated from both immature and in vitro matured COC and real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) was used to quantify gene expression. Our results showed there was significantly higher expression of survivin (P < 0.05) and lower expression of p53 (P < 0.01) in oocytes compared with cumulus cells in G1. No significant difference in gene expression was observed following in vitro maturation or in COC derived from G1 and G2. However, expression of the Bax gene was significantly higher in cumulus cells from G1 (P < 0.02).