Apoptotic myocyte cell death, diastolic dysfunction, and progressive deterioration in left ventricular pump function characterize the clinical course of diabetic cardiomyopathy. A key question concerns the mechanism(s) by which hyperglycemia (HG) transmits danger signals in cardiac muscle cells. The growth factor adapter protein p66ShcA is a genetic determinant of longevity, which controls mitochondrial metabolism and cellular responses to oxidative stress. Here we demonstrate that interventions which attenuate or prevent HG-induced phosphorylation at critical position 36 Ser residue (phospho-Ser36) inhibit the redox function of p66ShcA and promote the survival phenotype. Adult rat ventricular myocytes obtained by enzymatic dissociation were transduced with mutant-36 p66ShcA (mu-36) dominant-negative expression vector and plated in serum-free media containing 5 or 25 mM glucose. At HG, adult rat ventricular myocytes exhibit a marked increase in reactive oxygen species production, upregulation of phospho-Ser36, collapse of mitochondrial transmembrane potential, and increased formation of p66ShcA/cytochrome-c complexes. These indexes of oxidative stress were accompanied by a 40% increase in apoptosis and the upregulation of cleaved caspase-3 and the apoptosis-related proteins p53 and Bax. To test whether p66ShcA functions as a redox-sensitive molecular switch in vivo, we examined the hearts of male Akita diabetic nonobese (C57BL/6J) mice. Western blot analysis detected the upregulation of phospho-Ser36, the translocation of p66ShcA to mitochondria, and the formation of p66ShcA/cytochrome-c complexes. Conversely, the correction of HG by recombinant adeno-associated viral delivery of leptin reversed these alterations. We conclude that p66ShcA is a molecular switch whose redox function is turned on by phospho-Ser36 and turned off by interventions that prevent this modification.