The posttranslational modification of serine and threonine residues of nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins by the O-linked attachment of the monosaccharide β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) is a highly dynamic and ubiquitous protein modification. Protein O-GlcNAcylation is rapidly emerging as a key regulator of critical biological processes including nuclear transport, translation and transcription, signal transduction, cytoskeletal reorganization, proteasomal degradation, and apoptosis. Increased levels of O-GlcNAc have been implicated as a pathogenic contributor to glucose toxicity and insulin resistance, which are both major hallmarks of diabetes mellitus and diabetes-related cardiovascular complications. Conversely, there is a growing body of data demonstrating that the acute activation of O-GlcNAc levels is an endogenous stress response designed to enhance cell survival. Reports on the effect of altered O-GlcNAc levels on the heart and cardiovascular system have been growing rapidly over the past few years and have implicated a role for O-GlcNAc in contributing to the adverse effects of diabetes on cardiovascular function as well as mediating the response to ischemic injury. Here, we summarize our present understanding of protein O-GlcNAcylation and its effect on the regulation of cardiovascular function. We examine the pathways regulating protein O-GlcNAcylation and discuss, in more detail, our understanding of the role of O-GlcNAc in both mediating the adverse effects of diabetes as well as its role in mediating cellular protective mechanisms in the cardiovascular system. In addition, we also explore the parallels between O-GlcNAc signaling and redox signaling, as an alternative paradigm for understanding the role of O-GlcNAcylation in regulating cell function. Copyright © 2009 the American Physiological Society.