Plant species capable of hyperaccumulating heavy metals are of considerable interest for phytoremediation and phytomining. This work aims to identify the role of antioxidative metabolism in heavy metal tolerance in the Cd hyperaccumulator, Thlaspi caerulescens. Hairy roots of T. caerulescens and the non-hyperaccumulator, Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco), were used to test the effects of high Cd environments. In the absence of Cd, endogenous activities of catalase were two to three orders of magnitude higher in T. caerulescens than in N. tabacum. T. caerulescens roots also contained significantly higher endogenous superoxide dismutase activity and glutathione concentrations. Exposure to 20 ppm (178 I?M) Cd prevented growth of N. tabacum roots and increased hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) levels by a factor of five relative to cultures without Cd. In contrast, growth was maintained in T. caerulescens, and H2O2 concentrations were controlled to low, nontoxic levels in association with a strong catalase induction response. Treatment of roots with the glutathione synthesis inhibitor, buthionine sulfoximine (BSO), exacerbated H2O2 accumulation in Cd-treated N. tabacum, but had a relatively minor effect on H2O2 levels and did not reduce Cd tolerance in T. caerulescens. Lipid peroxidation was increased by Cd treatment in both the hyperaccumulator and non-hyperaccumulator roots. This work demonstrates that metal-induced oxidative stress occurs in hyperaccumulator tissues even though growth is unaffected by the presence of heavy metals. It also suggests that superior antioxidative defenses, particularly catalase activity, may play an important role in the hyperaccumulator phenotype of T. caerulescens.