Carnosine, homocarnosine, and anserine are present in high concentrations in the muscle and brain of many animals and humans. However, their exact function is not clear. The antioxidant activity of these compounds has been examined by testing their peroxyl radical-trapping ability at physiological concentrations. Carnosine, homocarnosine, anserine, and other histidine derivatives all showed antioxidant activity. All of these compounds showing peroxyl radical-trapping activity were also electrochemically active as reducing agents in cyclic voltammetric measurements. Furthermore, carnosine inhibited the oxidative hydroxylation of deoxyguanosine induced by ascorbic acid and copper ions. Other roles of carnosine, such as chelation of metal ions, quenching of singlet oxygen, and binding of hydroperoxides, are also discussed. The data suggest a role for these histidine-related compounds as endogenous antioxidants in brain and muscle.