The (1)O2 quenching rate constants (kQ) of alpha-tocopherol (alpha-Toc) and carotenoids such as beta-carotene, astaxanthin, canthaxanthin, and lycopene in liposomes were determined in light of the localization of their active sites in membranes and the micropolarity of the membrane regions, and compared with those in ethanol solution. The activities of alpha-Toc and carotenoids in inhibiting (1)O2-dependent lipid peroxidation (reciprocal of the concentration required for 50% inhibition of lipid peroxidation: [IC50](-1)) were also measured in liposomes and ethanol solution and compared with their kQ values. The kQ and [IC50](-1) values were also compared in two photosensitizing systems containing Rose bengal (RB) and pyrenedodecanoic acid (PDA), respectively, which generate (1)O2 at different sites in membranes. The kQ values of alpha-Toc were 2.9 x 10(8) M(-1) s(-1) in ethanol solution and 1.4 x 10(7) M(-1) s(-1) (RB system) or 2.5 x 10(6) M(-1) s(-1) (PDA system) in liposomes. The relative [IC50](-1) value of alpha-Toc in liposomes was also five times higher in the RB system than in the PDA-system. In consideration of the local concentration of the OH-group of alpha-Toc in membranes, the kQ value of alpha-Toc in liposomes was recalculated as 3.3 x 10(6) M(-1) s(-1) in both the RB and PDA systems. The kQ values of all the carotenoids tested in two photosensitizing systems were almost the same. The kQ value of alpha-Toc in liposomes was 88 times less than in ethanol solution, but those of carotenoids in liposomes were 600-1200 times less than those in ethanol solution. The [IC50](-1) value of alpha-Toc in liposomes was 19 times less than that in ethanol solution, whereas those of carotenoids in liposomes were 60-170 times less those in ethanol solution. There were no great differences (less than twice) in the kQ and [IC50](-1) values of any carotenoids. The kQ values of all carotenoids were 40-80 times higher than that of alpha-Toc in ethanol solution but only six times higher that of alpha-Toc in liposomes. The [IC50](-1) values of carotenoid were also higher than that of alpha-Toc in ethanol solution than in liposomes, and these correlated well with the kQ values.