Catecholamine neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and related catecholamine derivatives reduce nitroheterocyclic drugs such as nitrofurantoin, nifurtimox, nifuroxime, nitrofurazone, misonidazole, and metronidazole in slightly alkaline solutions. Drugs which contain 5-nitrofurans are reduced at lower pH than drugs which contain 2- and 5-nitroimidazoles. 5-Nitroimidazole derivatives such as metronidazole and ronidazole are known to be more difficult to reduce than 2-nitroimidazole derivatives, due to their lower redox potential. Catecholamines, when reducing nitro drugs, undergo concomitant oxidation to form semiquinone radicals. Both semiquinone radicals and nitro anion radicals formed in a reaction of nitro drug and catecholamine derivative were detected by electron spin resonance spectroscopy. Oxygen consumption studies in solutions containing nitro drug and catecholamine derivative showed that nitro anion radicals formed under aerobic conditions reduce oxygen to form the superoxide radical and hydrogen peroxide. Quinones formed in the reaction of catecholamine and nitro drug were detected by optical spectroscopy. Biosynthetic precursors and some metabolic products of catecholamines were also used in these studies, and they all exhibited reactions similar to catecholamines. Bovine chromaffin granules which synthesize and store catecholamines produced the nitrofurantoin anion radical when intact granules were treated with nitrofurantoin. These radicals formed inside the granules were observed by ESR spectroscopy. The formation of nitrofurantoin radical, semiquinone radicals of catecholamines, and oxygen-derived radicals by chromaffin granules is proposed to cause damage to adrenal medulla, and this process may lead to neurotoxicity.