The protective effect of a cytokinin benzyladenine (BA), against toxicity of paraquat (PQ), a widely used herbicide and a well-known oxidative stress inducer, was investigated in the leaves of maize. Maize leaves have been pretreated with BA at concentrations of 1, 10 and 100 mu M and afterwards treated with PQ. At all concentrations tested, BA retarded PQ-induced decreases in chlorophyll, carotenoid and ascorbic acid contents. Pretreatment with 10 and 100 mu M of BA significantly increased superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity after 8 h of PQ treatment but there was no significant change in SOD activity in the leaves pretreated with BA at 12 and 24 h. However, peroxidase activity significantly increased in 100 mu M of BA pretreated leaves. Results indicate that pretreatment with BA reduce PQ toxicity and BA-treated plants might become more tolerant against oxidative stress.