alpha-Lipoic acid, an essential cofactor in mitochondrial dehydrogenases, has recently been shown to be a potent antioxidant in vitro, as well as being capable of regenerating vitamin E in vitro. In this study, using a new animal model for rapid vitamin E deficiency in adult animals and a new technique for tissue extraction of oxidized and reduced alpha-lipoic acid, we examined the antioxidant action of alpha-lipoic acid in vivo. Vitamin E-deficient adult hairless mice displayed obvious symptoms of deficiency within five weeks, but if the diet was supplemented with alpha-lipoic acid the animals were completely protected. At five weeks on a vitamin E-deficient diet animals exhibited similar decreases in tissue vitamin E levels, whether supplemented or unsupplemented with alpha-lipoic acid: vitamin E levels in liver, kidney, heart, and skin decreased 70 to 85%; levels in brain decreased only 25%. These data show that there was no effect of alpha-lipoic acid supplementation on vitamin E tissue concentrations, arguing against a role for alpha-lipoic acid in regenerating vitamin E in vivo.