RATIONALE: Cardioprotective signaling mediates antiapoptotic actions through multiple mechanisms including maintenance of mitochondrial integrity. Pim-1 kinase is an essential downstream effector of AKT-mediated cardioprotection but the mechanistic basis for maintenance of mitochondrial integrity by Pim-1 remains unexplored. This study details antiapoptotic actions responsible for enhanced cell survival in cardiomyocytes with elevated Pim-1 activity. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that the cardioprotective kinase Pim-1 acts to inhibit cell death by preserving mitochondrial integrity in cardiomyocytes. METHODS AND RESULTS: A combination of biochemical, molecular, and microscopic analyses demonstrate beneficial effects of Pim-1 on mitochondrial integrity. Pim-1 protein level increases in the mitochondrial fraction with a corresponding decrease in the cytosolic fraction of myocardial lysates from hearts subjected to 30 minutes of ischemia followed by 30 minutes of reperfusion. Cardiac-specific overexpression of Pim-1 results in higher levels of antiapoptotic Bcl-X(L) and Bcl-2 compared to samples from normal hearts. In response to oxidative stress challenge, Pim-1 preserves the inner mitochondrial membrane potential. Ultrastructure of the mitochondria is maintained by Pim-1 activity, which prevents swelling induced by calcium overload. Finally, mitochondria isolated from hearts created with cardiac-specific overexpression of Pim-1 show inhibition of cytochrome c release triggered by a truncated form of proapoptotic Bid. CONCLUSION: Cardioprotective action of Pim-1 kinase includes preservation of mitochondrial integrity during cardiomyopathic challenge conditions, thereby raising the potential for Pim-1 kinase activation as a therapeutic interventional approach to inhibit cell death by antagonizing proapoptotic Bcl-2 family members that regulate the intrinsic apoptotic pathway.