An analysis of peroxidase and ascorbate oxidase activity, phenolic content and antioxidant capacity of isolated maize root cell walls was performed in controls and plants stressed with polyethylene glycol (PEG) or heavy metals, zinc or copper. Peroxidase activity (oxidative and peroxidative) was more pronounced in the ionic than in the covalent cell wall fraction. PEG induced an increase and Zn2+ a decrease of both ionically bound peroxidase activities. In the covalent fraction, Cu2+ decreased oxidative and increased peroxidative activity of peroxidase. Isoelectric focusing of ionically bound proteins and activity staining for peroxidase demonstrated increased intensities and appearance of new acidic isoforms, especially in Zn2+ and PEG treatments. Most pronounced basic isoforms (pI ~ 7.5) in controls, decreased in intensity or completely disappeared in stressed plants. Ascorbate oxidase activity was significantly increased by PEG and decreased by Zn2+ treatments, and highly correlated with peroxidase activity. Antioxidant capacity and total phenolics content increased in heavy metal-treated and decreased in PEG-treated plants. Analysis of individual phenolic components revealed p-coumaric and ferulic acids, as the most abundant, as well as ferulic acid dimers, trimers and tetramers in the cell walls; their quantity increased under stress conditions. Results presented demonstrate the existence of diverse mechanisms of plant response to different stresses.