We have shown that a single dose of streptozotocin (STZ) (50 mg/kg body weight) injected into rats caused significant changes in some antioxidant enzyme activities, such as glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, glutathione-S-transferase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, and 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase activities, and acid-soluble sulfhydryl levels of the liver tissue with respect to the control rats. Furthermore, these alterations in the activities of the antioxidant enzymes were accompanied by significant changes in the ultrastructure of the liver tissue; mainly intercellular biliary canaliculi were distended and contained stagnant bile, swollen mitochondria in hepatocytes and disoriented and disintegrating cristae, dilatation of the rough endoplasmic reticulum (rER) with detachment of ribosomes, and dissociation of polysomes. Both diabetic and normal rats were treated with sodium selenite (5 mu mol/kg/d, intraperitoneally) for 4 wk following 1 wk of diabetes induction. This treatment of diabetic rats improved significantly diabetes-induced alterations in liver antioxidant enzymes. Moreover, treating of diabetic rats with sodium selenite prevented primarily the variation in staining quality of hepatocytes nuclei, increased density and eosinophilia of the cytoplasm, focal sinusoidal dilatation and congestion, and increased numbers of mitochondria with different size and shape. In summary, treatment of diabetic rats with sodium selenite has beneficial effects on both antioxidant system and the ultrastructure of the liver tissue. These findings suggest that diabetes-induced oxidative stress can be responsible for the development of diabetic complications and antioxidant treatment can protect the target organs against diabetes.