Reactive oxygen species are believed to be the central mediators of beta-cell destruction that leads to type 1 and 2 diabetes, and calcium has been reported to be an important mediator of beta cell death. In the present study, the authors investigated whether Ca(2+) plays a role in hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2))-induced MIN6N8a mouse beta cell death. Treatment with low concentration H(2)O(2) (50 microM) was found to be sufficient to reduce MIN6N8a cell viability by 55%, largely via apoptosis. However, this H(2)O(2)-induced cell death was near completely blocked by pretreatment with BAPTA/AM (5 microM), a chelator of intracellular Ca(2+). Moreover, the intracellular calcium store channel blockers, such as, xestospongin c and ryanodine, significant protected cells from 50 microM H(2)O(2)-induced cell death and under extracellular Ca(2+)-free conditions, 50 microM H(2)O(2) elicited transient [Ca(2+)](i) increases. In addition, pharmacologic inhibitors of calpain, calcineurin, and calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II were found to have a protective effect on H(2)O(2)-induced death. Moreover, H(2)O(2)-induced apoptotic signals, such as c-JUN N-terminal kinase activation, cytochrome c release, caspase 3 activation, and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage were all down-regulated by the intracellular Ca(2+) chelation. These findings show that [Ca(2+)](i) elevation, possibly due to release from intracellular calcium stores and the subsequent activation of Ca(2+)-mediated apoptotic signals, critically mediates low concentration H(2)O(2)-induced MIN6N8a cell death. These findings suggest that a breakdown of calcium homeostasis by low level of reactive oxygen species may be involved in beta cell destruction during diabetes development.