Cercosporin, a nonspecific toxin from Cercospora species, is a photosensitizing compound which rapidly kills plant cells in the light. Cell death appears to be due to a cercosporin-mediated peroxidation of membrane lipids. Tobacco leaf discs treated with cercosporin showed a large increase in electrolyte leakage 1 to 2 minutes after irradiation with light. All tobacco protoplasts exposed to cercosporin in the light were damaged within 45 minutes. Chloroform:methanol extracts of toxin-treated suspension cultures gave positive reactions for lipid hydroperoxides in the thiobarbituric acid test. Cercosporin-treated leaf discs emitted high concentrations of ethane 12 to 24 hours after incubation in the light. Cercosporin also oxidized solutions of methyl linolenate as determined by the thiobarbituric acid assay and the emission of ethane. α-Tocopherol had an inhibitory effect on the cercosporin-mediated lipid peroxidation.