There is great evidence in recent years that oxygen free radicals play an important role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. The present study was performed to assess the changes in plasma nitric oxide (NO) and thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) levels, and superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), and xanthine oxidase (XO) activities in schizophrenic patients compared to age- and sex-matched normal controls. A hundred patients with schizophrenia and 51 healthy volunteers were included in the study. XO, SOD, and GSH-Px activities as well as NO and TBARS levels were estimated by standard biochemical techniques in the plasma of normal healthy controls and schizophrenia patients. In schizophrenia, increased plasma XO activity (P<.0001) and NO levels (P<.0001), decreased SOD activity (P<.0001), and unchanged GSH-Px activity were detected compared to control group. Plasma TBARS levels were increased in schizophrenic patients (P<.01), especially in the residual subtype. TBARS levels in nonsmoker schizophrenic patients were found to be higher than nonsmoker controls. Although TBARS levels in both patients and controls were found to be higher in smokers as compared to nonsmokers, it was not statistically significant. No effects of duration of the illness, gender, and low and high dose of daily neuroleptic treatment equivalent to chlorpromazine on oxidant and antioxidant parameters were observed. Because the dose and the duration of treatment with drugs have no influence on the results, it can be interpreted that the findings are more likely to be related mainly to the underlying disease. These findings indicated a possible role of increased oxidative stress and diminished enzymatic antioxidants, both of which may be relevant to the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. On the other hand, increased NO production by nitric oxide synthetases (NOSs) suggests a possible role of NO in the pathophysiological process of schizophrenia. These findings may also suggest some clues for the new treatment strategies with antioxidants and NO synthase (NOS) inhibitors in schizophrenia. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.