Heavy metals are increasingly being implicated as causative agents in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Cobalt, a positively charged transition metal, has previously been shown to be in elevated levels in the brain of AD patients compared with age-matched controls. In this study, we investigate the effects of cobalt as an inducer of oxidative stress/cell cytotoxicity and the resultant metabolic implications for neural cells. We show that cobalt is able to induce cell cytotoxicity (reduced MTT metabolism) and oxidative stress (reduced cellular glutathione). The pre-treatment of cells with the pineal indoleamine melatonin, prevented cell cytotoxicity and the induction of oxidative stress. Cobalt treatment of SHSY5Y cells increased the release of beta-amyloid (Abeta) compared with untreated controls (ratio Abeta 40/42). Melatonin pre-treatment reversed the deleterious effects of cobalt. These findings are significant as cobalt is an essential nutritional requirement, usually bound to cobalamin (vitamin B12), for all animals which in the unbound form could lead to neurotoxicity.