During hibernation in Arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii), O(2) consumption and plasma leukocyte counts decrease by >90%, whereas plasma concentrations of the antioxidant ascorbate increase fourfold. During rewarming, O(2) consumption increases profoundly and plasma ascorbate and leukocyte counts return to normal. Here we investigated the dynamic interrelationships among these changes. Plasma ascorbate and uric acid (urate) concentrations were determined by HPLC from blood samples collected at approximately 15-min intervals via arterial catheter; leukocyte count and hematocrit were also determined. Body temperature, O(2) consumption, and electromyographic activity were recorded continuously. Ascorbate, urate, and glutathione contents in body and brain samples were determined during hibernation and after arousal. During rewarming, the maximum rate of plasma ascorbate decrease occurred at the time of peak O(2) consumption and peak plasma urate production. The ascorbate decrease did not correlate with mouth or abdominal temperature; uptake into leukocytes could account for only a small percentage. By contrast, liver and spleen ascorbate levels increased significantly after arousal, which could more than account for ascorbate clearance from plasma. Brain ascorbate levels remained constant. These data suggest that elevated concentrations of ascorbate [(Asc)] in plasma [(Asc)(p)] provide an antioxidant source that is redistributed to tissues during the metabolic stress that accompanies arousal.