Aldehydes are ubiquitous pollutants with well-indicated but ill-defined cardiovascular toxicity. To investigate the direct toxic effects of environmental aldehyde exposure on the myocardium, 8-wk-old male ICR (Institute of Cancer Research) strain mice were gavage fed trans-2-hexenal (0.1, 1, 10, or 50 mg/kg/wk) or corn oil (vehicle) for 4 wk, during which cardiac function, myocardial morphology, cardiomyocyte apoptosis, and the cytochrome cmediated caspase activation apoptotic pathway were determined. Quantification by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) revealed that aldehyde- protein adducts increase in mouse hearts following hexenal treatment, whereas echocardiographic analysis displayed a significant impairment of basal left-ventricular contractile function. Both histological analysis and TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick-end labeling) staining indicated condensed nuclei and a significant increase in cardiomyocyte apoptosis in these mice, but immunohistochemistry-based confocal microscope revealed no marked myofibril disarray. Release of cytochrome c from mitochondria into the cytosol, concomitant with activation of caspase-3 and -9, was also found in hexenal-treated groups. In addition, isolated cardiac mitochondria formed hexenal-protein adducts when treated with hexenal, providing indirect evidence that the cardiac mitochondrion is one of primary subcellular targets of aldehyde toxins. These findings suggest that trans-2-hexenal exposure results in direct cardiac toxicity through, at least in part, induction of mitochondrial cytochrome c release-mediated apoptosis in cardiomyocytes, indicating that the cardiac mitochondrion is one of principal subcellular targets of aldehyde toxins.