The effects of idebenone and various nootropic drugs on lipid peroxidation in rat brain homogenate were examined. Idebenone inhibited lipoperoxide (LPO) production in brain homogenate in a concentration-dependent manner, with an IC50 of 38 microM. The inhibition was strongly enhanced (about 100-fold) by adding succinate, a substrate in the mitochondrial respiration. The optimal concentration of succinate was 0.5 mM. Inhibition of lipid peroxidation in brain homogenate by various nootropic drugs in the presence or absence of succinate was then examined. Drugs added to the brain homogenate at 100 microM in the absence of succinate inhibited LPO production in the order: idebenone greater than vinpocetine greater than bifemelane greater than indeloxazine greater than calcium hopantenate. However, when the drugs were added at 1 microM in the presence of succinate, only idebenone demonstrated inhibition. These results suggest that although almost all of the drugs tested inhibit lipid peroxidation in brain homogenate, only idebenone is activated by succinate, the other drugs being insensitive to this compound.