Using two cultivars of Pisum sativum L. with different sensitivity to NaCl, the effect of long-term (15 d) NaCl (70 m M) treatments on the activity and expression of the foliar ascorbate–glutathione cycle enzymes, superoxide dismutase isozymes and their mRNAs was evaluated and related to their ascorbate and glutathione contents. High-speed supernatant (soluble) fractions, enriched for cytosolic components of the antioxidant system, were used. In this fraction from the NaCl-tolerant variety (cv Granada), the activities of ascorbate peroxidase (APX), glutathione reductase (GR), monodehydroascorbate reductase (MDHAR), Mn-superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD) and dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR) increased, while CuZn-SOD activity remained constant. In the NaCl-sensitive plants (cv Challis), salinity did not produce significant changes in APX, MDHAR and GR activities. Only DHAR activity was induced in cv Challis, whereas soluble CuZn-SOD activity decreased by about 35%. Total ascorbate and glutathione contents decreased in both cultivars, but the decline was greater in NaCl-sensitive plants. This difference between the two cultivars was more pronounced when the transcript levels of some these enzymes were examined. Transcript levels for mitochondrial Mn-SOD, chloroplastic CuZn-SOD and phospholipid hydroperoxide glutathione peroxidase (PHGPX), cytosolic GR and APX were strongly induced in the NaCl-tolerant variety but not in the NaCl-sensitive variety. These data strongly suggest that induction of antioxidant defences is at least one component of the tolerance mechanism of peas to long-term salt-stress.