Protection by sulfur-containing compounds was studied using bacteria E. coli Bsub(H) and cultured mouse leukemic cells, L 5178 Y. The protective mechanisms are discussed. The dose reduction factors of non-sulfhydryl compounds observed in the bacteria were the same as those observed in mammalian cells, and the protective activity of these compounds was proportional to their reaction rates with hydroxyl radicals. On the other hand, sulfhydryl compounds, with the exception of glutathione, offered a much greater protection than was anticipated from their radical scavenging activity. From studies under anoxia, the protection of cysteine was explained by its OH scavenging and competition with oxygen. In addition, for MEA, protection against the direct action of radiation was suggested. This was supported by the significant protection in the frozen state.