To evaluate the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in Shigella dysenteriae 1 toxin (STx) mediated intestinal infection, the ligated rabbit small intestinal loops were injected with STx. The enterocytes isolated from STx treated rabbit ileal loops had a significantly higher level of lipid peroxidation as compared to enterocytes isolated from control rabbit ileum. To study the role of second messengers in STx mediated intestinal damage, the in vivo and in vitro effects of modulators of lipid peroxidation of enterocytes were used. The presence of Ca2+-ionophore A23187 enhanced the extent of lipid peroxidation in enterocytes isolated from the control and STx treated rabbit ileum. However, l-verapamil only marginally decreased the lipid peroxidation level of enterocytes isolated from STx treated rabbit ileum. The in vitro effect of modulators was in agreement with in vivo studies. Dantrolene significantly decreased the extent of lipid peroxidation of enterocytes isolated from STx treated rabbit ileum. PMA significantly increased the lipid peroxidation level of enterocytes isolated from control ileum. However, PMA could not further enhance the lipid peroxidation level of enterocytes isolated from STx treated rabbit ileum. The presence of H-7 significantly decreased the extent of lipid peroxidation of enterocytes isolated from STx treated rabbit ileum. In vitro effect of PMA and H-7 was in agreement with that of in vivo findings. The role of arachidonic acid metabolites, prostaglandins (PGs), in mediating STx induced lipid peroxidation was also studied. The presence of indomethacin (a PG synthesis inhibitor) significantly decreased the lipid peroxidation induced by STx. These findings suggest that lipid peroxidation induced by STx is mediated through cytosolic calcium. The increase in (Ca2+)i leads to activation of PKC. A significant decrease in the enterocyte levels of antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase and reduced glutathione in STx treated rabbit ileum as compared to control was seen. A significant decrease in vitamin E levels was also observed. This suggests that there is decreased endogenous intestinal protection against ROS in STx mediated intestinal infection which could contribute to enterocyte membrane damage that ultimately leads to changes in membrane permeability and thus to fluid secretion.