Liver injury caused by iron overload is presumed to involve lipid peroxidation and the formation of products such as 4-hydroxynonenal (4HNE), which has been implicated in hepatic fibrogenesis. Cellular antioxidants that modulate the formation and detoxification of compounds such as 4HNE may represent important protective mechanisms involved in the response to iron overload. This study examines the relationship between 4HNE, collagen content, and antioxidant defenses in the livers of rats fed carbonyl iron for 10 weeks. Iron-loading resulted in significant increases in iron (8.8-fold), 4HNE (1.7-fold), and hydroxyproline (1.5-fold). Total glutathione content was unchanged by iron, but gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase activity (GGT) increased sixfold and CuZn superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD) activity decreased >9%. GGT colocalized with iron deposition and was associated with increased GGT mRNA. Decreased CuZnSOD activity was paralleled by a reduction in CuZnSOD protein on Western blot and immunohistochemistry, but no decrease in CuZnSOD mRNA. Glutathione S-transferase (GST) and Mn superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) activities were also significantly increased by iron loading. These results demonstrate that iron overload significantly alters the expression of antioxidant enzymes associated with glutathione (GGT and GST) and superoxide metabolism (CuZnSOD and MnSOD). Furthermore, the localized induction of GGT may enhance detoxification of lipid peroxidation-derived aldehydes via glutathione-dependent pathways in iron-loaded hepatocytes. These alterations in antioxidant defenses may represent an adaptive response, limiting accumulation 4HNE, and thus, stimulation of collagen synthesis, accounting for the mild fibrogenic response seen in this model of iron overload.