HepG2 cells were transfected with vectors containing human catalase cDNA and catalase cDNA with a mitochondrial leader sequence to allow comparison of the effectiveness of catalase overexpressed in the cytosolic or mitochondrial compartments to protect against oxidant-induced injury. Overexpression of catalase in cytosol and in mitochondria was confirmed by Western blot, and activity measurement and stable cell lines were established. The intracellular level of H(2)O(2) induced by exogenously added H(2)O(2) or antimycin A was lower in C33 cell lines overexpressing catalase in the cytosol and mC5 cell lines overexpressing catalase in the mitochondria as compared with Hp cell lines transfected with empty vector. Cell death caused by H(2)O(2), antimycin A, and menadione was considerably suppressed in both the mC5 and C33 cell lines. C33 and mC5 cells were also more resistant to apoptosis induced by H(2)O(2) and to the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential induced by H(2)O(2) and antimycin A. In view of the comparable protection by catalase overexpressed in the cytosol versus the mitochondria, catalase produced in both cellular compartments might act as a sink to decompose H(2)O(2) and move diffusable H(2)O(2) down its concentration gradient. The present study suggests that catalase in cytosol and catalase in mitochondria are capable of protecting HepG2 cells against cytotoxicity or apoptosis induced by oxidative stress.