The effect of feeding groups of mice with a diet containing 2000, 4000 and 6000 micrograms aluminum (Al3-/g) for two weeks (subacute) or 2000 and 4000 micrograms Al3+/g for eight weeks (subchronic) as well as the coadministration of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) 500 micrograms/g with Al3+, on the status of glutathione (GSH) and lipid peroxides as thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) in whole brain tissues were evaluated. Changes in TBARS were further evaluated in vitro following the incubation of brain homogenates of the Al(3+)-fed mice in the presence of 50 microM FeSO4. The results of subacute experiments revealed that the brain levels of GSH were significantly decreased only in the group of mice that received 6000 micrograms Al3+/g diet (P < 0.05) and this effect was partially ameliorated when vitamin E was coadministered with Al3+. TBARS were significantly increased in vitro only in the presence of free iron ions and depended on the concentration of Al3+ in the diet. The effect was opposed by the vitamin E intake. Following subchronic Al3+ intake, the GSH content of the brain was significantly decreased only in the group of mice that received 4000 micrograms Al3+/g diet (P < 0.01), while TBARS were significantly increased in the brain tissues in vivo as well as in the presence of free iron ions in vitro. However, coadministration of vitamin E with Al3+ for eight weeks preserved GSH levels and decreased TBARS in the brain of mice in vivo and in the presence of free iron ions in vitro. It is concluded that the long term administration of vitamin E may prevent Al3(+)-stimulated oxidative injury in the brain.