Dithiocarbamates have a wide spectrum of applications in industry, agriculture and medicine with new applications being actively investigated. One adverse effect of dithiocarbamates is the neurotoxicity observed in humans and experimental animals. Results from previous studies have suggested that dithiocarbamates elevate copper and promote lipid oxidation within myelin membranes. In the current study, copper levels, lipid oxidation, protein oxidative damage and markers of inflammation were monitored as a function of N,N-diethyldithiocarbamate (DEDC) exposure duration in an established model for DEDC-mediated myelinopathy in the rat. Intra-abdominal administration of DEDC was performed using osmotic pumps for periods of 2, 4, and 8 weeks. Metals in brain, liver and tibial nerve were measured using ICP-MS and lipid oxidation assessed through HPLC measurement of malondialdehyde in tibial nerve, and GC/MS measurement of F(2) isoprostanes in sciatic nerve. Protein oxidative injury of sciatic nerve proteins was evaluated through quantification of 4-hydroxynonenal protein adducts using immunoassay, and inflammation monitored by quantifying levels of IgGs and activated macrophages using immunoassay and immunohistochemistry methods, respectively. Changes in these parameters were then correlated to the onset of structural lesions, determined by light and electron microscopy, to delineate the temporal relationship of copper accumulation and oxidative stress in peripheral nerve to the onset of myelin lesions. The data provide evidence that DEDC mediates lipid oxidation and elevation of total copper in peripheral nerve well before myelin lesions or activated macrophages are evident. This relationship is consistent with copper-mediated oxidative stress contributing to the myelinopathy.