In the present study, the effects of acute ethanol ( EtOH) toxicity and of exogenous melatonin (MLT) on this toxicity were examined by measuring membrane-bound ATPases and acetylcholinesterase activities in rat synaptosomal membranes. The concentrations of plasma alpha-tocopherol and adrenal ascorbic acid (AA) were also measured. Synaptosomal Na+, K+- ATPase and Ca2+-ATPase activities were significantly depressed in acute EtOH-intoxicated rats compared with controls, while acetylcholinesterase activity remained unaltered. Pretreatment with MLT (10 mg/kg) prior to acute EtOH administration prevented EtOH-induced inhibition of ATPases. Adrenal AA and plasma alpha-tocopherol levels were also depressed regardless of MLT pretreatment. MLT treatment alone affected neither membrane-bound enzyme activities nor tissue and blood levels of vitamins C and E. It is concluded that acute EtOH intoxication disturbs neural transport functions through the membrane-bound ATPase activity depression. Reduced AA and alpha-tocopherol levels may contribute to the neurodegenerative effects of EtOH. However, pretreatment with a high dose of MLT before EtOH administration may be beneficial to prevent EtOH-induced toxicity on ATPase-mediated neural transport functions.