Clinical studies have shown that the antioxidant vitamin E can slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Other antioxidants reported to affect cognitive function include ginkgo biloba, vitamin C, and lipoic acid. To examine the effects of combination antioxidant therapy (CAT) on longevity and neuropathology in mice, we supplemented the diet of ApoE-deficient mice with vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, pycnogenol, and ascorbyl palmitate. ApoE-deficient mice normally exhibit increased numbers of PAS-positive inclusion bodies with aging. However, supplementation with CAT resulted in a significant increase in life span and a marked reduction of inclusion body histopathology in the hippocampus. In addition, while untreated apoE-deficient mice exhibited increased levels of TUNEL staining, a marker of DNA fragmentation, supplementation with CAT resulted in a significant reduction in the levels of TUNEL staining. These findings suggest that oxidative mechanisms, perhaps related to neuronal apoptosis, are integral to inclusion body formation in aging mice. The association between the reduced number of apoptotic cells and the reduction in inclusion bodies may explain in part the increased longevity of mice fed CAT, and supports the contention that the combined actions of selected antioxidants may be therapeutically effective against neurodegenerative diseases.