The effects of ozone or sulfur dioxide on antioxidant enzymes were investigated in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plants were fumigated with 0.1-0.15 ppm ozone or sulfur dioxide up to about 1 week in an environment-controlled chamber. Both pollutants increased the activities of ascorbate peroxidase and guaiacol peroxidase in leaves, but had little effect on the activities of superoxide dismutase, catalase, monodehydroascorbate reductase, dehydroascorbate reductase or glutathione reductase. Ozone was more effective than sulfur dioxide in increasing the activities of the peroxidases. Ascorbate peroxidase activity increased 1.8-fold without a lag period during fumigation with 0.1 ppm ozone, while guaiacol peroxidase activity increased 4.4-fold with a 1-day lag. Expression of the APX1 gene encoding cytosolic ascorbate peroxidase was further investigated. Its protein levels in leaves exposed to 0.1 ppm ozone for 4 or 8 days were 1.5-fold higher than in controls. Both ozone and sulfur dioxide elevated APX1 mRNA levels in leaves at 4 and 7 days, whereas at 1 day only ozone was effective. The induction of APX1 mRNA levels by ozone (3.4- to 4.1-fold) was more prominent than that by sulfur dioxide (1.6- to 2.6-fold). The APX1 mRNA level increased by day and decreased by night. Exposure of plants to 0.1 ppm ozone enhanced the APX1 mRNA level within 3 h, which showed a diurnal rhythm similar to that of the control. These results demonstrate that near-ambient concentrations of ozone as well as similar concentrations of sulfur dioxide can induce APX1 gene expression in A. thaliana.