Exogenously administered melatonin causes a 2-fold rise in glutathione peroxidase activity within 30 min in the brain of the rat. Furthermore, brain glutathione peroxidase activity is higher at night than during the day and is correlated with high night-time tissue melatonin levels. Glutathione peroxidase is thought to be the principal enzyme eliminating peroxides in the brain. This antioxidative enzyme reduces the formation of hydroxyl radicals formed via iron-catalyzed Fenton-type reactions from hydrogen peroxide by reducing this oxidant to water. Since the hydroxyl radical is the most noxious oxygen radical known, induction of brain glutathione peroxidase might be an important mechanism by which melatonin exerts its potent neuroprotective effects.