This study investigated the frequency of apoptosis in rat hippocampal neural cells after intraperitoneal nicotine injection, examining the roles of the inflammatory markers myeloperoxidase (MPO) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) in nicotine-induced brain damage and the protective effects of three known antioxidant agents, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), erdosteine, and vitamin E. Female Wistar rats were divided into seven groups, each composed of nine rats: 2 negative control groups, 2 positive control groups, one erdosteine-treated group (500 mg/kg), one NAC-treated group (500 mg/kg), and one vitamin E-treated group (500 mg/kg). Nicotine was intraperitoneally injected at a dosage of 0.6 mg/kg for 21 days. Following nicotine injection, the antioxidants were administered orally; treatment was continued until the rats were killed. Apoptosis level in hippocampal neural cells was determined by using TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick endlabeling) method. Staining of cytoplasmic TNF-a in hippocampal neural cells and hippocampus MPO activity were evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Nicotine administration had no effect on local TNF-a production, or hippocampal MPO activity. The treatments with erdosteine, NAC and vitamin E significantly reduced the rate of nicotine-induced hippocampal neural cell apoptosis. This findings suggest that erdosteine and NAC can be as effective as vitamin E in protecting against nicotine-induced hippocampal neural cell apoptosis. J. Cell. Biochem. 104: 1740-1746, 2008. (C) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.