Since most of the known factors that are associated with cataract formation are oxidative in nature, one would expect that a highly reductive environment might arrest or retard the progress of cataract formation. Reduced nucleotides, both NADH and NADPH, are potent reductants with a large negative redox potential of -320 mV. Lenses of certain species contain high levels of these nucleotides, presumably due to the presence of taxon specific crystallins. We have utilized this situation to investigate whether the levels of reduced pyridine nucleotides modulate photo-oxidative damage to the lens. We have monitored the time dependent loss of tryptophan fluorescence upon photodamage for lenses from guinea pig, rabbit and frog (Rana) that contain high levels of pyridine nucleotides and compared with the lenses from rat, Xenopus and a mutant strain of guinea pig that contain significantly lower amounts of these nucleotides. About 75% and 90% of the initial fluorescence intensity is lost in the case of rat and Xenopus lenses, respectively, after a total of 35 min exposure. Rabbit, guinea pig and frog lenses, under identical conditions, show only about 35-40% loss of the initial fluorescence. It appears that the lenses that contain high levels of reduced nucleotides are less susceptible to photodamage. The observed anti-oxidative role of reduced nucleotides in the lenses indicates the possibility of testing reductants (NADPH, NADH and their functional analogues) as potential candidates to therapeutically intervene in the process of cataractogenesis.