Apoptosis occurs during early development in both in vivo- and in vitro-produced embryos, and is considered as one of the causes of embryonic loss. The objectives of this study were, therefore, investigating stage-specific expression profiles of apoptosis regulatory genes in three quality groups of in vitro-produced bovine pre-implantation embryos; and analysing the relationship between cell number and DNA fragmentation with expressions of those genes. The relative abundance of mRNA of 9 pro- (Bax, caspase-9, Bcl-xs, P53, Caspase-3 and Fas) and anti- (Bcl-w and Mcl-1) apoptotic genes was analysed. Differential cell staining and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-biotin nick end labelling were performed to analyse the variation in cell numbers and detect apoptotic nuclei respectively. Expression of Bax and Caspase-3 genes was significantly (p < 0.05) higher in poor quality pre-implantation embryos as compared with that of morphologically good quality embryos of the same developmental stages. Moreover, Mcl-1 expression was significantly higher in good quality immature oocytes than that in the poor quality group. Moreover, higher DNA fragmentation was evidenced in morphologically poor quality blastocysts. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that Bax, caspase-3 and Mcl-1 can be used as potential markers of embryo quality to evaluate in vitro-produced bovine embryos. Further studies are required to investigate specific molecular signatures that can be used in evaluating in vivo-derived embryos.