Hyperglycemia is a causal factor in the development of diabetic vascular complications including impaired vascular smooth muscle contractility and increased cell proliferation. The present study was designed to investigate the effects of Sasa borealis water-extract (SBwE) on chronic hyperglycemia-induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVEC). HUVEC were cultured in 5.5 mM low glucose, 5.5 mM glucose plus 27.5 mM mannitol as an osmotic control, or 33 mM high glucose for 5 days in the absence and presence of 1-30 microg/ ml SBwE. Caspase-3 activation and Annexin V staining revealed chronic high glucose-induced endothelial apoptotic toxicity with a generation of oxidants detected by DCF-fluorescence, and these effects were reversed by SBwE at > or =1 microg/ml in a dose-dependent manner. Cytoprotective SBwE substantially reduced the sustained high glucose-induced expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase and attenuated the formation of peroxynitrite radicals. The suppressive effects of SBwE were most likely mediated through blunting activation of PKC beta 2 and NADPH oxidase promoted by high glucose. In addition, this bamboo extract modulated the high glucose-triggered mitogen-activated protein kinase-dependent upregulation of heat-shock proteins. Our results suggest that SBwE suppressed these detrimental effects caused by PKC-dependent peroxynitrite formation via activation of NADPH oxidase and induction of nitric oxide synthase and heat-shock protein family that may be essential mechanisms responsible for increased apoptotic oxidative stress in diabetic vascular complications. Moreover, the blockade of high glucose-elicited heat-shock protein induction appeared to be responsible for SBwE-alleviated endothelial apoptosis. Therefore, SBwE may be a therapeutic agent for the prevention and treatment of diabetic endothelial dysfunction and related complications.