The developmental competence of invitro maturation (IVM) oocytes can be enhanced by antioxidant agents. The present study investigated, for the first time in the rabbit model, the effect of adding α-tocopherol (0, 100, 200 and 400µM) during IVM on putative transcripts involved in antioxidant defence (superoxide dismutase 2, mitochondrial (SOD2), glutathione peroxidase 1 (GPX1), catalase (CAT)), cell cycle regulation and apoptosis cascade (apoptosis tumour protein 53 (TP53), caspase 3, apoptosis-related cysteine protease (CASP3)), cell cycle progression (cellular cycle V-Akt murine thymoma viral oncogene homologue 1 (AKT1)), cumulus expansion (gap junction protein, alpha 1, 43 kDa (GJA1) and prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (prostaglandin G/H synthase and cyclo-oxygenase) (PTGS2)) and metabolism (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD)). Meiotic progression, mitochondrial reallocation, cumulus cell apoptosis and the developmental competence of oocytes after IVF were also assessed. Expression of SOD2, CAT, TP53, CASP3 and GJA1 was downregulated in cumulus-oocyte complexes (COCs) after IVM with 100μM α-tocopherol compared with the group without the antioxidant. The apoptotic rate and the percentage of a non-migrated mitochondrial pattern were lower in COCs cultured with 100μM α-tocopherol, consistent with better-quality oocytes. In fact, early embryo development was improved when 100μM α-tocopherol was included in the IVM medium, but remained low compared with invivo-matured oocytes. In conclusion, the addition of 100μM α-tocopherol to the maturation medium is a suitable approach to manage oxidative stress and apoptosis, as well as for increasing the in vitro developmental competence of rabbit oocytes.