Experimental Mg2+ deficiency was induced in a group of rats by feeding them a Mg2+-deficient diet for 23 days. They were pair-fed to compare with a control group of rats fed a Mg2+-sufficient diet. In the Mg2+-deficient group the plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride levels were increased while HDL-cholesterol was decreased. In the Mg2+-deficient group the plasma level of thiobarbituric acid reacting substances (TBARS) used as a measure for lipid peroxidation was increased. The increase was attributed to the increased cytosolic Ca2+ in Mg2+-deficiency which can cause: 1) increase of hydro and endoperoxide levels as a consequence of the increase of arachidonic acid release and eicosanoid synthesis in Mg2+-deficiency, and 2) inhibition of the mitochondrial respiratory activity and activation of Ca2+-dependent proteases which may activate the conversion of xanthine dehydrogenase to xanthine oxidase which generates active O2 species. In the Mg2+-deficient group, the fatty acid composition of the liver microsomes indicated a slower rate of conversion of linoleic acid to arachidonic acid which was consistent with the decrease of delta 6 desaturase activity in liver microsomes of Mg2+-deficient rats as measured in vitro. The decrease of delta 6 desaturase activity was attributed to the lower concentration of actual enzyme molecules as a result of the decreased rate of protein synthesis in Mg2+-deficiency. The possible effects of the increased catecholamine release in Mg2+-deficiency are discussed.