We have previously reported that glucosamine protected neonatal rat ventricular myocytes against ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury, and this was associated with an increase in protein O-linked-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) levels. However, the protective effect of glucosamine could be mediated via pathways other that O-GlcNAc formation; thus the initial goal of the present study was to determine whether increasing O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) expression, which catalyzes the formation of O-GlcNAc, had a protective effect similar to that of glucosamine. To better understand the potential mechanism underlying O-GlcNAc-mediated cytoprotection, we examined whether increased O-GlcNAc levels altered the expression and translocation of members of the Bcl-2 protein family. Both glucosamine (5 mM) and OGT overexpression increased basal and I/R-induced O-GlcNAc levels, significantly decreased cellular injury, and attenuated loss of cytochrome c. Both interventions also attenuated the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential induced by H2O2 and were also associated with an increase in mitochondrial Bcl-2 levels but had no effect on Bad or Bax levels. Compared with glucosamine and OGT overexpression, NButGT (100 μM), an inhibitor of O-GlcNAcase, was less protective against I/R and H 2O2 and did not affect Bcl-2 expression, despite a 5-to 10-fold greater increase in overall O-GlcNAc levels. Decreased OGT expression resulted in lower basal O-GlcNAc levels, prevented the I/R-induced increase in O-GlcNAc and mitochondrial Bcl-2, and increased cellular injury. These results demonstrate that the protective effects of glucosamine are mediated via increased formation of O-GlcNAc and suggest that this is due, in part, to enhanced mitochondrial Bcl-2 translocation. Copyright © 2008 the American Physiological Society.