The potential for 60 Hz magnetic field (MF) preconditioning to protect heart-derived, H9c2 cultures from damage by simulated ischemia and reperfusion (I-R) was examined. The most effective MF exposure conditions (120 μT, 4-8 h) increased cell survival by 40-50 % over that seen with I-R alone. Potential targets of MF preconditioning were assessed by investigating the apoptosis-related drop in Bcl-2 levels and elevation of the specific activities of caspases 3, 8 and 9 produced by I-R. In response to MF exposure Bcl-2 levels rose 2 to 2.6-fold, and caspase specific activities fell 51-72 % from the values seen after I-R alone. Levels of Hsp's 25, 32 and 72 were examined in response to the MF, but showed little-to-no elevation beyond that produced by I-R. However, MF preconditioning produced a 77 % decrease in the I-R-induced translocation of phosphorylated Hsp25 (Hsp25-P) from the cytosolic to the nuclear-cytoskeletal cell fraction. This might protect by maintaining active Hsp25-P in the cytosol to function as a chaperone or to bind cytochrome c. Blocking Hsp25 phosphorylation with SB203580, an inhibitor of p38 MAPK, resulted in increases of 64 and 80 % in the respective specific activities of caspases 3 and 9 in cells subjected to I-R, and eliminated the MF-induced reduction in caspase 3 activity.