Exogenously supplied catalase, a peroxisomal enzyme, has been found to be of therapeutic value in ischemic injury. Therefore, we examined the effect of ischemic-reperfusion injury on the structure and function of kidney peroxisomes. Ischemic injury changed the density of peroxisomes from 1.21 g/cm3 (peak I) to a lighter density of 1.14 g/cm3 (peak II). The number of peroxisomes moving from the normal density population (peak I) to a lower density population (peak II) increased with an increase in ischemic injury. Latency experiments indicated both populations of peroxisomes to be of intact peroxisomes. Immunoblot analysis with antibodies against peroxisomal matrix and membrane proteins demonstrated that after 90 min of ischemia a significant number of matrix proteins were lost in the peak II population, suggesting that functions of these peroxisomes may be severally affected. Reperfusion following ischemic injury resulted in loss of peroxisomal matrix proteins in both peaks I and II, suggesting that peroxisomal functions may be drastically compromised. This change in peroxisomal functions is reflected by a significant decrease in peroxisomal catalase activity (35%) and beta-oxidation of lignoceric acid (43%) observed following 90 min of ischemia. The decrease in catalase activity was more pronounced in reperfused kidneys even after a shorter term of ischemic injury. Reperfusion restored the normal peroxisomal beta-oxidation in kidneys exposed up to 60 min of ischemia. However, 90 min of ischemia was irreversible as there was a further decrease in beta-oxidation upon reperfusion. The decrease in catalase activity during ischemia alone was due to the formation of an inactive complex, whereas during reperfusion, following 90 min of ischemia, inactivation and proteolysis or decreased synthesis of catalase contributed equally toward the injury. The observed changes in the structure and function of peroxisomes as a result of ischemic-reperfusion injury and the ubiquitous distribution of peroxisomes underlines the importance of this organelle in the pathophysiology of vascular injury in general.