Dunaliella species accumulate carotenoids and their role in protection against photooxidative stress has been investigated extensively. By contrast, the role of other antioxidants in this alga, has received less attention. Therefore, the components of the ascorbate–glutathione cycle, along with superoxide dismutase (E.C. 220.127.116.11) and peroxidase (E.C. 18.104.22.168) activity were compared in two strains of Dunaliella salina. Strain IR-1 had two-fold higher chlorophyll and β-carotene concentration than Gh-U. IR-1 had around four-fold higher superoxide dismutase, ascorbate peroxidase and pyrogallol peroxidase activities than Gh-U on a protein basis. Ascorbate and glutathione concentrations and redox state did not differ between strains and there was little difference in the activity of ascorbate–glutathione cycle enzymes (monodehydroascorbate reductase [E.C. 22.214.171.124], dehydroascorbate reductase [E.C. 126.96.36.199] and glutathione reductase [E.C. 188.8.131.52]). The response of these antioxidants to high light and low temperature was assessed by transferring cells from normal growth conditions (28°C, photon flux density of 100 μmol m−2 s−1)to 28°C/1200 μmol m−2 s−1; 13°C/100 μmol m−2 s−1; 13°C/1200 μmol m−2 s−1 and 28°C/100 μmol m−2 s−1 for 24 h. Low temperature and combined high light-low temperature decreased chlorophyll and β-carotene in both strains indicating that these treatments cause photooxidative stress. High light, low temperature and combined high light-low temperature treatments increased the total ascorbate pool by 10–50% and the total glutathione pool by 20–100% with no consistent effect on their redox state. Activities of ascorbate–glutathione cycle enzymes were not greatly affected but all the treatments increased superoxide dismutase activity. It is concluded that D. salina can partially adjust to photooxidative conditions by increasing superoxide dismutase activity, ascorbate and glutathione.