Manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) overexpression has been shown to reverse the malignant phenotype in a variety of tumor cell lines. The inhibition of proliferation and reversal of the malignant phenotype has been attributed to an increase in H(2)O(2) production as a result of the dismutation reaction. However, direct evidence in support of this hypothesis has not been forthcoming. To evaluate the contribution of H(2)O(2) in the regulation of cell growth in response to MnSOD overexpression, control and MnSOD-overexpressing HT-1080 fibrosarcoma cells were transfected with constructs that direct catalase to either the mitochondrial or cytosolic compartments. Overexpression of catalase in either compartment reversed the proliferative and clonogenic inhibition associated with MnSOD overexpression, blocked the increase in the steady state levels of H(2)O(2) as measured by flow cytometric analysis of 2', 7'-dichlorofluorescein diacetate, and increased protection from the cytotoxicity of H(2)O(2). In addition, mitochondrial or cytosolic catalase enhances respiration through complex I and II in both control and MnSOD overexpressing cell lines and reverses a MnSOD-dependent decrease in net ATP production. Thus, catalase reverses the proliferative inhibition associated with MnSOD overexpression and may also play an important role in metabolic regulation.