Background and objectives Hyperhomocysteinemia is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Homocysteine thiolactone (HcyT), one of the homocysteine metabolites in vivo, is toxic both in vivo and in vitro. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of HcyT on apoptotic damage in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and the role of antioxidants in the reduction of HcyT-induced apoptosis. Methods HUVECs were cultured in DMEM supplemented with 20% heat inactivated fetal bovine serum cell cultures were maintained in a humidified 5% CO, atmosphere at 37°C. Cytotoxicity was determined by MTT assay, which consists of hypodiploid cells with propidium iodide labeling and intracellular reactive oxygen species levels using 2',7'-dichlorofluorescein diacetate as the probe by flow cytometry. Results HcyT (250-2000uM) induced HUVECs apoptosis in a time- and concentration-dependent manner. Reactive oxygen species levels rose in response to increasing HcyT concentrations at 24-h incubation. The reduction of cell apoptosis by N-acetylcysteine, vitamin E, or pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate, occurred simultaneously with a signifi-cant decrease in intracellular reactive oxygen species levels. Conclusion HcyT exerts its cytotoxic effects on endothelial cells through an apoptotic mechanism involving cellular reactive oxygen species production. The capacity of N-acetylcysteine, vitamin E, and pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate to scavenge HcyT-induced cellular reactive oxygen species correlates well with their efficiency to protect against HcyT-promoted apoptotic damage. The protective effect of pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate on cell apoptosis indicates HcyT-generated hydrogen peroxide may provoke cell apoptosis via activating nuclear factor-kappa binding protein.