The cytotoxicity of oxysterols including 7-ketocholesterol, α-epoxide, cholestanetriol and 25-hydroxycholesterol and the possible protecting effect of α-tocopherol on cholestanetriol and 25-hydroxycholesterol-induced cytotoxicity were investigated in primary cultures of porcine ovarian granulosa cells. Cell viability as determined by % trypan blue staining and mitochondrial function as determined using 3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5- diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) reduction were decreased significantly after 24 h exposure to 2.5 μM α-epoxide, cholestanetriol and 25-hydroxycholesterol. 7-ketocholesterol (2.5 μM) did not affect cell viability or mitochondrial function under the same culture conditions. The specific activities of catalase and superoxide dismutase, two antioxidant defense enzymes were increased significantly (p < 0.01) following 24 h exposure to 2.5 μM concentrations of cholestanetriol while only superoxide dismutase was increased in 25-hydroxycholesterol-treated cells (p < 0.001). Specific activity of glutathione peroxidase was unchanged relative to control cells. Levels of thiobarbituric acid reactive substances remained unchanged after exposure to 7-ketocholesterol, α-epoxide, cholestanetriol, 25-hydroxycholesterol and cholesterol. Administration of 1 μM α-tocopherol to the culture medium significantly improved cell viability and restored both superoxide dismutase and catalase activities to control levels in cholestanetriol -treated cells and only superoxide dismutase in 25-hydroxycholesterol-treated cells. These studies suggest that the cytotoxic nature of physiologically relevant concentrations of cholestanetriol and 25-hydroxycholesterol in granulosa cells is in part due to oxidative stress, but it may be reduced in the presence of a-tocopherol.