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Nephrotoxicity is the main limitation to the dosage and anticancer efficacy of cisplatin. Cisplatin produces tubular epithelial cell apoptosis and necrosis depending on the concentration of the drug. Protection from cisplatin nephrotoxicity must therefore tackle both cell death modes. For its ability to reduce cisplatin reactivity, in addition to its antioxidant effect, we tested and found that N-acetylcysteine (NAC) was most effective at inhibiting cisplatin cytotoxicity. NAC has no significant effect on cell death induced by either cycloheximide or Fas activation, indicating a rather selective action. Pt-DNA-binding experiments suggest that the differential effectiveness of NAC is due to its capacity to quench cisplatin reactivity inside the cell. NAC abolishes cisplatin-induced apoptosis, and transforms the necrosis induced by high concentrations of cisplatin into apoptosis. In fact, NAC allows the anti-apoptotic molecule Bcl-2 to reduce the cell death caused by pro-necrotic concentrations of cisplatin, to a significantly greater extent than in the absence of NAC. In rats, a dosage of NAC that significantly ameliorates cisplatin nephrotoxicity, has little effect on gentamicin nephrotoxicity. These characteristics provide NAC with a rationale as a potential nephroprotectant specifically tailored to and especially effective for therapeutic courses with platinated antineoplastics, which prompts to deepening into further preclinical knowledge, and to initiate clinical studies with NAC and mixed therapies composed of NAC and antiapoptotic drugs.Antioxidant-independent effects N-acetylcysteine afford tubular cytoprotection.N-acetylcysteine binds intracellular cisplatin and reduces its reactivity.N-acetylcysteine transforms cisplatin-induced necrosis into apoptosis.N-acetylcysteine is a potential nephroprotectant of cisplatin nephrotoxicity.