Manganese porphyrin complexes serve to catalytically scavenge superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and peroxynitrite. Herein, reactions of manganese 5,10,15,20-tetrakis(N-ethylpyridinium-2-yl)porphyrin (MnTE-2-PyP(5+)) with lipids and lipid hydroperoxides (LOOH) are examined. In linoleic acid and human low-density lipoprotein (LDL), MnTE-2-PyP(5+) promotes oxidative reactions when biological reductants are not present. By redox cycling between Mn(+3) and Mn(+4) forms, MnTE-2-PyP(5+) initiates lipid peroxidation via decomposition of 13(S)hydroperoxyoctadecadienoic acid [13(S)HPODE], with a second-order rate constant of 8.9 x 10(3) M(-1)s(-1)and k(cat) = 0.32 s(-1). Studies of LDL oxidation demonstrate that: (i) MnTE-2-PyP(5+) can directly oxidize LDL, (ii) MnTE-2-PyP(5+) does not inhibit Cu-induced LDL oxidation, and (iii) MnTE-2-PyP(5+) plus a reductant partially inhibit lipid peroxidation. MnTE-2-PyP(5+) (1-5 microM) also significantly inhibits FeCl(3) plus ascorbate-induced lipid peroxidation of rat brain homogenate. In summary, MnTE-2-PyP(5+) initiates membrane lipid and lipoprotein oxidation in the absence of biological reductants, while MnTE-2-PyP(5+) inhibits lipid oxidation reactions initiated by other oxidants when reductants are present. It is proposed that, as the Mn(+3) resting redox state of MnTE-2-PyP(5+) becomes oxidized to the Mn(+4) redox state, LOOH is decomposed to byproducts that propagate lipid oxidation reactions. When the manganese of MnTE-2-PyP(5+) is reduced to the +2 state by biological reductants, antioxidant reactions of the metalloporphyrin are favored.