Macrophages derived from the human monocyte cell line THP-1 or isolated from the peritoneum of C3H/HEJ mice were incubated with oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and the total glutathione content (oxidized plus reduced) was measured. An initial depletion of glutathione was followed by an increase, such that after a period of 24 h the glutathione content had approximately doubled. This response required the oxidation of the lipid phase of the LDL molecule, since both native LDL and acetylated LDL had little effect on glutathione levels. The response of the cells to oxidized LDL was dependent on the extent of oxidative modification of the protein. It was also found that 4-hydroxynonenal had a similar effect on THP-1 cells, and we suggest that this or other aldehydes present in oxidized LDL causes the induction of glutathione synthesis in response to an initial oxidative stress and consequent glutathione depletion. In addition, we found that both cell types possess transferases and peroxidases capable of detoxifying aldehydes and peroxides. However, treatment of cells with oxidized LDL or 4-hydroxynonenal for a period of 24 h had no effect on the activities of these enzymes.