Dithiocarbamates are a commercially important class of compounds that can produce peripheral neuropathy in humans and experimental animals. Previous studies have supported a requirement for copper accumulation and enhanced lipid peroxidation in dithiocarbamate-mediated myelinopathy. The study presented here extends previous investigations in two areas. Firstly, although total copper levels have been shown to increase within the nerve it has not been determined whether copper is increased within the myelin compartment, the primary site of lesion development. Therefore, the distribution of copper in sciatic nerve was characterized using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microscopy to determine whether the neurotoxic dithiocarbamate, N,N-diethyldithiocarbamate, increases copper levels in myelin. Secondly, because lipid peroxidation is an ongoing process in normal nerve and the levels of lipid peroxidation products produced by dithiocarbamate exposure demonstrated an unusual cumulative dose response in previous studies the biological impact of dithiocarbamate-mediated lipid peroxidation was evaluated. Experiments were performed to determine whether dithiocarbamate-mediated lipid peroxidation products elicit an antioxidant response through measuring the protein expression levels of three enzymes, superoxide dismutase 1, heme oxygenase 1, and glutathione transferase alpha, that are linked to the antioxidant response element promoter. To establish the potential of oxidative injury to contribute to myelin injury the temporal relationship of the antioxidant response to myelin injury was determined. Myelin structure in peripheral nerve was assessed using multi-exponential transverse relaxation measurements (MET(2)) as a function of exposure duration, and the temporal relationship of protein expression changes relative to the onset of changes in myelin integrity were determined. Initial assessments were also performed to explore the potential contribution of dithiocarbamate-mediated inhibition of proteasome function and inhibition of cuproenzyme activity to neurotoxicity, and also to assess the potential of dithiocarbamates to promote oxidative stress and injury within the central nervous system. These evaluations were performed using an established model for dithiocarbamate-mediated demyelination in the rat utilizing sciatic nerve, spinal cord and brain samples obtained from rats exposed to N,N-diethyldithiocarbamate (DEDC) by intra-abdominal pumps for periods of 2, 4, and 8 weeks and from non exposed controls. The data supported the ability of DEDC to increase copper within myelin and to enhance oxidative stress prior to structural changes detectable by MET(2). Evidence was also obtained that the excess copper produced by DEDC in the central nervous system is redox active and promotes oxidative injury.