Beta-amyloid (Abeta)-induced neurotoxicity is considered to be mediated through the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In this study, the protective effects of Poria cocos water extract (PCW) against Abeta1-42-induced cell death were investigated using rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells. Exposure of PC12 cells to the Abeta1-42 (20 microM) for 48h resulted in neuronal cell death, whereas pretreatment with PCW at the concentration range of 5-125 microg/ml reduced Abeta1-42-induced cell death. In addition, PC12 cells treated with Abeta1-42 exhibited increased accumulation of intracellular oxidative damages and underwent apoptotic death as determined by characteristic morphological alterations and positive in situ terminal end-labeling (TUNEL staining). However, PCW attenuated Abeta1-42-induced cytotoxicity, apoptotic features, and accumulation of intracellular oxidative damage. Moreover, PCW (5 to 125 microg/ml) decreased expression of apoptotic protein Bax and activity of caspase-3, but enhanced expression of anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2. These results suggest that PCW may protect cells through suppressing the oxidative stress and the apoptosis induced by Abeta1-42, implying that PCW may be potential natural agents for Alzheimer's diseases.