We investigated the effects of the antibiotic ceftazidime (CAZ) on the cytolytic action of the neutrophil myeloperoxidase-hydrogen peroxide-chloride anion system (MPO/H(2)O(2)/Cl(-)). In this system, myeloperoxidase catalyses the conversion of H(2)O(2) and CI(-) to the cytotoxic agent HOCl. Stimulated neutrophils can release MPO into the extracellular environment and then may cause tissue injury through direct endothelial cells lysis. We showed that human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) were capable of taking up active MPO. In presence of H(2)O(2) (10(-4) M), this uptake was accompanied by cell lysis. The cytolysis was estimated by the release of (51)Cr from HUVEC and expressed as an index of cytotoxicity (IC). Dose dependent protection was obtained for CAZ concentrations ranging from 10(-5) to 10(-3) M;this can be attributed to inactivation of HOCl by the drug. This protection is comparable to that obtained with methionine and histidine, both of which are known to neutralize HOCl. This protection by CAZ could also be attributed to inactivation of H(2)O(2), but when cytolysis was achieved with H(2)O(2) or O(2) (-) generating enzymatic systems, no protection by CAZ was observed. Moreover, the peroxidation activity of MPO (action on H(2)O(2)) was not affected by CAZ, while CAZ prevented the chlorination activity of MPO (chlorination of monochlorodimedon). So, we concluded that CAZ acts via HOCl inactivation. These antioxidant properties of CAZ may be clinically useful in pathological situations where excessive activation of neutrophils occurs, such as in sepsis.