A series of nitroxides was tested for rates of one-electron reduction in a chemical, a photochemical, and two biological systems by ESR assays. In all cases, piperidine and hydropyridine nitroxides were reduced consistently more rapidly than pyrroline and pyrrolidine nitroxides. Substituents on the nitroxides also affected reduction rates, although not as greatly as ring structure. One of the reduction systems, consisting of the photosensitizer FMN and the photoreductant EDTA, was used to study both anaerobic reduction and O2-dependent reoxidation of some of the nitroxides. Reduced piperidine and hydropyridine nitroxides were also oxidized more rapidly than the reduced pyrroline and pyrrolidine nitroxides. Reoxidation subsequent to reduction was partially inhibited by superoxide dismutase, indicating that superoxide radicals are involved in the process. Even after prolonged reoxidation, not all of the probe molecules were returned to their oxidized form, implying an irreversible "destruction" of the spin probe concomitant with its chemical reduction. Probe destruction was studied more specifically with a photochemical system for generating methyl radicals, which showed that these carbon-centered radicals destroyed different nitroxides at rates which were much less influenced by the nitroxide structures than one-electron reduction was.