Oxidative stress is considered to be the main cause of diabetic complications. As the role of antioxidants in diabetes therapy is still underestimated, the aim of the present investigation was to study the antioxidative action of melatonin in comparison with N-acetylcysteine (NAC) under diabetic conditions. Alloxan-diabetic rabbits were treated daily with either melatonin (1 mg/kg, i.p.), NAC (10 mg/kg, i.p.) or saline. Blood glutathione redox state and serum hydroxyl free radicals (HFR), creatinine and urea levels were monitored. After 3 wk of treatment animals were killed and HFR content, reduced glutathione/oxidized glutathione (GSH/GSSG) ratio as well as the activities of glutathione reductase, glutathione peroxidase and gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase were estimated in both liver and kidney cortex. Diabetes evoked a several-fold increase in HFR levels accompanied by a significant decline in GSH/GSSG ratio in serum and the examined organs. In contrast to NAC, melatonin (at 1/10 the dose of NAC) attenuated diabetes-induced alterations in glutathione redox state and HFR levels, normalized creatinine concentration and diminished urea content in serum. Moreover, the indole resulted in an increase in glutathione reductase activity in both studied organs and in a rise in glutathione peroxidase and gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase activities in the liver. In contrast to NAC, melatonin seems to be beneficial for diabetes therapy because of its potent antioxidative and nephroprotective action. The indole-induced increase in the activities of the enzymes of glutathione metabolism might be of importance for antioxidative action of melatonin under diabetic conditions.