Glutathione peroxidase, a selenium-containing enzyme, is believed to protect cells from the toxicity of hydroperoxides. The physiological role of this enzyme has previously been implicated mainly using animals fed with a selenium-deficient diet. Although selenium deficiency also affects the activity of several other cellular selenium-containing enzymes, a dramatic decrease of glutathione peroxidase activity has been postulated to play a role in the pathogenesis of a number of diseases, particularly those whose progression is associated with an overproduction of reactive oxygen species, found in selenium-deficient animals. To further clarify the physiological relevance of this enzyme, a model of mice deficient in cellular glutathione peroxidase (GSHPx-1), the major isoform of glutathione peroxidase ubiquitously expressed in all types of cells, was generated by gene-targeting technology. Mice deficient in this enzyme were apparently healthy and fertile and showed no increased sensitivity to hyperoxia. Their tissues exhibited neither a retarded rate in consuming extracellular hydrogen peroxide nor an increased content of protein carbonyl groups and lipid peroxidation compared with those of wild-type mice. However, platelets from GSHPx-1-deficient mice incubated with arachidonic acid generated less 12-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid and more polar products relative to control platelets at a higher concentration of arachidonic acid, presumably reflecting a decreased ability to reduce the 12-hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid intermediate. These results suggest that the contribution of GSHPx-1 to the cellular antioxidant mechanism under normal animal development and physiological conditions and to the pulmonary defense against hyperoxic insult is very limited. Nevertheless, the potential antioxidant role of this enzyme in protecting cells and animals against the pathogenic effect of reactive oxygen species in other disorders remains to be defined. The knockout mouse model described in this report will also provide a new tool for future study to distinguish the physiological role of this enzyme from other selenium-containing proteins in mammals under normal and disease states.