The effect of dietary vitamin E on the activity of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) and 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase (6PGD) was studied in the dorsal root ganglia of rat. One-month-old male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to two dietary treatment groups for 2 months. The first received a standard diet supplemented with vitamin E, the second was fed a basal vitamin E-deficient diet. The activity of G6PD was markedly decreased in ganglia of the deficient animals with respect to the controls. On the other hand, the activity of the 6PGD was not significantly altered in the deficient animals. In the red cells the two enzyme activities presented a similar situation and the level of the reduced glutathione in the red cells was not significantly altered by the status of dietary vitamin E. Kinetic analysis with crude extracts of ganglia or partially purified G6PD demonstrated that there was no direct modulatory effect of the vitamin on the enzyme activity. Moreover, nondenaturing gel electrophoresis performed in this study revealed that none of the three G6PD activity bands which appeared on the acrylamide gel were significantly altered in the deficient animals. At present, the mechanism linking the G6PD activity with the status of dietary vitamin E remains unknown. Our results suggest, however, that a reduced NADPH generation produced by a decay of G6PD activity may limit the glutathione peroxidase, a very active enzyme in detoxifying peroxides, and may predispose the nervous tissue to oxidant injury.