Cardiac hypertrophy is the main response of the heart to various extrinsic and intrinsic stimuli, and it is characterized by specific molecular and phenotypic changes. Recent in vitro and in vivo studies indicate the involvement of reactive oxygen species in the hypertrophic response. In this study, silibinin, a plant flavonolignan extracted from milk thistle with potent antioxidant activity, was evaluated for its effects in (a) preventing hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2))-induced cellular damage and (b) blocking the phenylephrine-induced hypertrophic response. Using the in vitro model of embryonic rat heart-derived H9c2 cells, we showed that silibinin has a rather safe profile as concentrations up to 200µM did not affect cell viability. Pretreatment of H9c2 cells with silibinin resulted in better protection of H9c2 cells under conditions of H(2)O(2)-induced cellular stress compared to untreated cells as indicated by cell viability and DNA fragmentation assays. Furthermore, silibinin attenuated the phenylephrine-induced hypertrophic response as evidenced by the measurement of cell surface, up-regulation of atrial natriuretic peptide and increase of cellular protein levels. Moreover, silibinin repressed the phenylephrine-induced phosphorylation of ERK1/2 kinases, while it appeared to inhibit the weakly activated by phenylephrine phosphorylation of Akt. Based on our results, silibinin may attenuate the phenylephrine-induced hypertrophic response of H9c2 cells via antioxidant mechanisms involving mainly the inhibition of the intracellular signaling pathways mediated by ERK1/2 MAPKs and Akt.