Rat liver mitochondria were examined for their ability to reduce dehydroascorbic acid to ascorbic acid in an alpha-lipoic acid dependent or independent manner. The alpha-lipoic acid dependent reduction was stimulated by factors that increased the NADH dependent reduction of alpha-lipoic acid to dihydrolipoic acid in coupled reactions. Optimal conditions for dehydroascorbic acid reduction to ascorbic acid were achieved in the presence of pyruvate, alpha-lipoic acid, and ATP. Electron transport inhibitors, rotenone and antimycin A, further enhanced the dehydroascorbic acid reduction. The reactions were strongly inhibited by 1 mM iodoacetamide or sodium arsenite. Mitoplasts were qualitatively similar to intact mitochondria in dehydroascorbate reduction activity. Pyruvate dehydrogenase and alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase reduced dehydroascorbic acid to ascorbic acid in an alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme A, and pyruvate or alpha-ketoglutarate dependent fashion. Dehydroascorbic acid was also catalytically reduced to ascorbic acid by purified lipoamide dehydrogenase in an alpha-lipoic acid (K0.5 = 1.4 +/- 0.8 mM) and lipoamide (K0.5 = 0.9 +/- 0.3 mM) dependent manner.