Recently, numerous studies have shown antioxidant actions of melatonin. Melatonin at both physiological and pharmacological levels stimulates glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase and superoxide dismutase activities in the brains of rats and chickens. This study was designed to evaluate the effect of melatonin on nephropathy and oxidative stress under constant light exposure. Nephropathy was induced by adriamycin administered in a single dose (25 mg kg−1 b.w., i.p.). Melatonin was injected i.p. (1000 μg kg−1 b.w./day). Malondialdehyde, reduced glutathione, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glutathione transferase, catalase and superoxide dismutase were determined in kidney. Urea, creatinine and total proteins in plasma and proteinuria were evaluated and melatonin was determined. Results show a decrease in melatonin levels. Similar effects occurred with the antioxidant enzyme activities and reduced glutathione. Likewise, adriamycin and constant light induced significant enhancement of malondialdehyde. All changes induced both by adriamycin and constant light were reverted to normal by melatonin administration. Constant light exposure was associated with an increase in oxidative stress and nephropathy induced by adriamycin. Treatment with melatonin decreased lipid peroxides, and permitted a recovery of reduced glutathione, scavenger enzyme activity and parameters of renal function. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.