Cytokines and various cellular stresses are known to activate c-Jun N-terminal kinase-1 (JNK1), which is involved in physiological function. Here, we investigate the activation of JNK1 by oxidative stress in H9c2 cells derived from rat cardiomyocytes. H(2)O(2) (100 microM) significantly induces the tyrosine phosphorylation of JNK1 with a peak 25 min after the stimulation. The amount of JNK1 protein remains almost constant during stimulation. Immunocytochemical observation shows that JNK1 staining in the nucleus is enhanced after H(2)O(2) stimulation. To clarify the physiological role of JNK1 activation under these conditions, we transfected antisense JNK1 DNA into H9c2 cells. The antisense DNA (2 microM) inhibits JNK1 expression by 80% as compared with expression in the presence of the sense DNA, and significantly blocks H(2)O(2)-induced cell death. Consistent with the decrease in cell number, we detected condensation of the nuclei, a hallmark of apoptosis, 3 h after H(2)O(2) stimulation in the presence of the sense DNA for JNK1. The antisense DNA of JNK1 inhibits the condensation of nuclei by H(2)O(2). Under these conditions, the H(2)O(2)-induced phosphorylation of proteins with molecular masses of 55, 72, and 78 kDa is blocked by treatment with the antisense DNA for JNK1 as compared with the sense DNA for JNK1. These findings suggest that JNK1 induces apoptotic cell death in response to H(2)O(2), and that the cell death may be involved in the phosphorylations of 55, 72, and 78 kDa proteins induced by JNK1 activation.