Controversy about the importance of catalase in the detoxification of H2O2 in human erythrocytes continues. It has been suggested that catalase has no role in the clearance of H2O2 in erythrocytes. In the present study we investigated the role of catalase in the defence mechanism against oxidative stress using Saccharomyces cerevisiae. S. cerevisiae has two catalases, catalase A and catalase T. We constructed a double mutant (acatalasaemic mutant) unable to produce either catalase A or catalase T, and compared it with wild-type and single-mutant cells. The acatalasaemic mutant cells showed a similar growth rate to wild-type cells under non-oxidative stress conditions, and showed a similar susceptibility to H2O2 stress in the exponential growth phase. The acatalasaemic mutant cells at stationary phase were, however, much more sensitive to H2O2 stress than wild-type and single-mutant cells. Moreover, the ability of acatalasaemic and single-mutant cells to show adaptation to 2 mM H2O2 was distinctly inferior to that of wild-type cells. These results suggest that catalase is not essential for yeast cells under normal conditions, but plays an important role in the acquisition of tolerance to oxidative stress in the adaptive response of these cells.