In rodents, chronic estrogenization has been shown to induce degeneration of dendrites and myelin figures in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus adjacent to peroxidase-positive astrocyte processes. Because in this brain region estradiol is metabolized to 2- hydroxyestradiol (catecholestrogen), we hypothesized that the latter may be oxidized by the astrocytic peroxidase activity to cytotoxic ortho-semiquinones as occurs in peripheral tissues. Cysteamine induces nonenzymatic peroxidase activity in cultured astroglia identical to that observed in vivo. Using electron spin resonance, we demonstrate robust peroxidase-catalyzed oxidation of 2-hydroxyestradiol and dopamine by cysteamine-pretreated astrocyte cultures relative to untreated controls. These results implicate the peroxidase-positive astrocytes in the pathogenesis of estradiol-related hypothalamic damage, parkinsonism, and other free-radical-related neurologic disorders.