The specific activity of brain glutamine synthetase (GS) is lowered in several neurodegenerative diseases that involve iron-mediated oxidative stress. The present study has investigated whether H2O2 directly inactivates GS or whether GS is primarily inactivated by hydroxyl radicals that are produced by the Fenton reaction when H2O2 reacts with ferrous iron. Exposure of purified sheep brain GS to supraphysiological concentrations of H2O2 (1 mM for 30 min) reduced its specific activity by only 41 , indicating that the enzyme is fairly resistant to oxidation by peroxide. However, the enzyme was completely inactivated when co-incubated with H2O2, iron and ascorbate, indicating a vulnerability to oxidation by conditions that favour the production of hydroxyl radicals. Similarly, specific GS activity in cultured mouse astrocytes was resistant to supraphysiological concentrations of H2O2, with approximately 37 of activity remaining 3 h after incubation with 1 mM H2O2. This inactivation was prevented by the iron chelators 2,2 -dipyridyl or 1,10-phenanthroline, but not by their non-chelating analogues. These data suggest that inactivation of astrocytic GS is caused by H2O2 indirectly via the Fenton reaction as it required the presence of chelatable intracellular iron.