To analyze the underlying cellular mechanisms of adaptation to ischemia-induced apoptosis through short acidic pretreatment, i.e. acidic preconditioning (APC), Wistar rat coronary endothelial cells (EC) were exposed for 40 min to acidosis (pH 6.4) followed by a 14 h recovery period (pH 7.4) and finally treated for 2 h with simulated in vitro ischemia (glucose-free anoxia at pH 6.4). APC led to a transient activation of p38 and Akt kinases, but not of JNK and ERK1/2 kinases, which was accompanied by significant reduction of the apoptotic cell number, caspase-12/-3 cleavage and Bcl-xL overexpression. These effects of APC were completely abolished by prevention of Akt- or p38-phosphorylation during APC. Furthermore, knock-down of Bcl-xL by siRNA-transfection also abolished the anti-apoptotic effect of APC. Therefore, APC leads to protection of EC against ischemic apoptosis by activation of Akt and p38 followed by overexpression of Bcl-xL, which is a key anti-apoptotic mechanism of APC.