Several observations in the recent literature have indicated that Fanconi anemia (FA) cells may be primarily deficient in the detoxification of activated oxygen species. To evaluate the antioxidant status of FA fibroblasts, we measured Mn-containing superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD), CuZn-containing superoxide dismutase (CuZn-SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase activities, as well as cellular glutathione contents and total nonenzymatic antioxidant potential in Fa and control fibroblasts at multiple time point during a single passage. All parameters exhibited a characteristic pattern of changes during a period of 19 days following trypsinization. Unlike FA erythrocytes, which are known to be deficient in CuZn-SOD, FA fibroblasts exhibited normal CuZn-SOD activities. Also, the nonenzymatic "antioxidant potential" as well as glutathione levels were similar in FA and control fibroblasts. However, Mn-SOD, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase activities were consistently higher in FA fibroblasts. We hypothesize that the elevation of these enzyme activities might reflect a cellular "prooxidant" state in FA resulting from an increased formation of endogenous oxidizing molecular species that trigger enhanced synthesis of certain enzymatic antioxidant defenses.