Antioxidant enzymes and vitamins provide a defence against the damage of cells by reactive oxygen species in living systems. The effect of Cu, Se and vitamin E deficiencies on the antioxidant enzyme activities and lipid peroxide levels of chicken erythrocytes were investigated during 6 weeks of a depletion diet. CuZnSOD activity and the plasma Cu level of the Cu-deficient group which was fed a diet containing 0.2 mg Cu kg(-1) were reduced to 62 and 71% respectively. GSH-Px activity of the Se-deficient group was decreased by 46% but by 21% in the Cu-deficient group. CAT activity values of Se- and Cu-deficient groups were increased by 28 and 10% respectively. The maximum increase of LPO levels in erythrocyte membranes was observed as 32% for the Se + E-deficient group. The LPO level of the Cu-deficient group which had decreased CuZnSOD and GSH-Px activity, was also observed to be significantly increased when compared with the controls (p < 0.05). Copyright (C) 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.