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The action of reactive oxygen species, i.e. hydrogen peroxide, cupric sulphate and ascorbic acid, added at different concentrations to culture media, has been studied in two strains of Deinococcus radiodurans(red-pigmented parental and colourless mutant strains) in relation to their defense antioxidant systems. While the pigmented bacteria were more resistant to elevated concentrations of the different oxidants, the colourless bacteria were more sensitive and their sensitivity was dose-dependent. Reactive oxygen species induced oxidative damage, particularly to the polyethylenic fatty acids, which were more abundant in the mutant strain. Similarly, a significant increase in lipid peroxide levels was observed, whatever the chemical added during the growth of the mutant bacteria. The parental strain required high concentrations of oxidants to shorten its survival. Vitamins A and E, carotenoids and enzymes, largely present in the parental strain, could be responsible for its higher resistance to the lethal effects of radicals generated within the cells.