The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of stress-induced lipid peroxidation on macrophages' functions. Animals were subjected to 4h immobilization at 4°C in restraining devices. The peritoneal macrophages obtained from rats exposed to cold and restraint stress exhibited an increase in lipid peroxidation and a decline of chemotaxis and phagocytosis compared with control rats. After supplementation with vitamin E, the increment in thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) content as the oxidative stress marker and the decline of chemotaxis and phagocytosis in peritoneal macrophages observed during cold-restraint stress was significantly removed. No significant change in catalase activity of peritoneal macrophages was observed in groups exposed to cold-restraint stress and treated with vitamin E. These findings indicate that phagocytic and chemotactic capacities of peritoneal macrophages are decreased by cold-restraint stress and this effect of stress may be related to lipid peroxidation. © 2004 International Federation for Cell Biology. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.