Apocynin is a naturally occurring methoxy-substituted catechol, experimentally used as an inhibitor of NADPH-oxidase. In the present study, we investigated the protective effects of apocynin on antimycin A (AMA)-induced toxicicy in osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells. Exposure of MC3T3-E1 cells to AMA caused significant cell viability loss, as well as mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) dissipation, complex IV inactivation, ATP loss, intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i) elevation and oxidative stress. Pretreatment with apocynin prior to AMA exposure significantly reduced AMA-induced cell damage by preventing MMP dissipation, complex IV inactivation, ATP loss, [Ca2+]i elevation and oxidative stress. These results suggest that apocynin has a protective effect against AMA-induced cell damage by its antioxidant effects and the attenuation of mitochondrial dysfunction. Apocynin also induced the activation of PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase), Akt (protein kinase B) and CREB (cAMP-response element-binding protein) inhibited by AMA. All these data indicate that apocynin may reduce or prevent osteoblasts degeneration in osteoporosis or other degenerative disorders. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.