Mouse neuroblastoma cells exposed to 2.5 and 5.0 microM methylmercury for 24 h appeared rounded with the loss of processes. Immunohistochemical staining directed against beta-tubulin revealed severe alterations in microtubular architecture. Non-membrane-bound condensation product was visualized ultrastructurally in the treated cells and appeared similar to what was seen histochemically. Reduced and oxidized glutathione levels suggest that methylmercury may manifest its deleterious effects via oxidation of tubulin sulfhydryls, and by alterations due to peroxidative injury. Cells exposed to methylmercury showed a decrease in glutathione peroxidase activity. Simultaneous administration of 10 mM glutathione with 2.5 and 5.0 microM methylmercury dramatically prevented cell injury.