Chlorophyllin (CHL) has been examined as an antioxidant/radioprotector in splenic lymphocytes from BALB/c mice. CHL inhibited lipid peroxidation induced by 2,2'-azobis(2-propionimidinedihydrochloride) (AAPH) in lymphocytes in vitro. It also partially prevented radiation-induced suppression of mitogenic stimulation of lymphocytes in vitro. Generation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) by radiation or AAPH was measured as oxidation of dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate (H(2)DCF-DA) using flow cytometry. Addition of CHL to lymphocytes in vitro significantly inhibited the increase in intracellular ROS. Further, lymphocytes from mice treated with CHL (100-400 microg/gbw i. p.) showed varying levels of ROS depending on the dose and the time (24 to 72 h) after injection. The extent of radiation-induced apoptosis and suppression of concanavalin A (con A)-induced mitogenesis ex vivo corresponded with changes in ROS levels in CHL-administered mice. Antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione peroxidase (GPX) were also estimated in lymphocytes from CHL-treated mice. CHL offered protection against whole body irradiation (WBI)-induced lipid peroxidation and apoptosis in lymphocytes at all the time points studied. These results demonstrate antioxidant effect of CHL in vivo.