Degeneration of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons is the major pathogenic substrate of Parkinson's disease (PD). Inhibitors of monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) have been used in the treatment of PD and at least one of them, i.e., deprenyl, also displays antioxidant activity. Dopamine (DA) autoxidation produces reactive oxygen species implicated in the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the nigrostriatal pathway. In this study we compared the effects of melatonin with those of deprenyl and vitamins E and C in preventing the hydroxyl radical (•OH) generation during DA oxidation. The rate of production of 2,3-dihydroxybenzoate (2,3-DHBA) in the presence of salicylate, an •OH scavenger, was used to detect the in vitro generation of •OH during iron-catalyzed oxidation of DA. The results showed a dose-dependent effect of melatonin, deprenyl and vitamin E in counteracting DA autoxidation, whereas vitamin C had no effect. Comparative analyses between the effect of these antioxidants showed that the protective effect of melatonin against DA autoxidation was significantly higher than that of the other compounds tested. Also, when melatonin plus deprenyl were added to the incubation medium, a potentiation of the antioxidant effect was found. These findings suggest that antioxidants may be useful in brain protection against toxicity of reactive oxygen species produced during DA oxidation, and melatonin, alone or in combination with deprenyl, may be an important component of the brain's antioxidant defenses to protect it from dopaminergic neurodegeneration.