Insulin-producing cells show very low activity levels of the cytoprotective enzymes catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase. This weak antioxidative defense status has been considered a major feature of the poor resistance against oxidative stress. Therefore, we analyzed the protective effect of a combined overexpression of Cu,ZnSOD or MnSOD together with different levels of catalase. Catalase alone was able to increase the resistance of transfected RINm5F insulin-producing tissue culture cells against H(2)O(2) and HX/XO, but no protection was seen in the case of menadione. In combination with an increase of the MnSOD or Cu,ZnSOD expression, the protective action of catalase overexpression could be further increased and extended to the toxicity of menadione. Thus, optimal protection of insulin-producing cells against oxidative stress-mediated toxicity requires a combined overexpression of both superoxide- and hydrogen peroxide-inactivating enzymes. This treatment can compensate for the constitutively low level of antioxidant enzyme expression in insulin-producing cells and may provide an improved protection in situations of free radical-mediated destruction of pancreatic beta cells in the process of autoimmune diabetes development.