Abiotic stresses (e.g., heavy metals, drought, cold, or combinations) induce oxidative stress with overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS). We have investigated the antioxidative responses of Albizia julibrissin Durazz. (silk tree, Fabaceae). Four-month-old plants grown in sand cultures were subjected to various single or sequential treatments involving exposure to cadmium (50-250 mu mol L-1 Cd), lead (1000-5000 mu mol L-1 Pb), chilling at 4 degrees C (CH), or drought (DR), for a period of 7-45 days. Leaf extracts were assayed for glutathione peroxidase (GPX), glutathione-disulfide reductase (GR), catalase (CAT), soluble proline (Pro), ascorbate peroxidase (APX), and guaiacol peroxidase (GUAPX). Cd and Pb accumulation in the leaves was also measured. CAT activity decreased strongly with increasing Pb exposure and after CH. It was also found to be reduced after Cd and DR treatments. GR activity increased highly in nearly all treatments, most strongly at high Cd or Pb, after DR ? CH, and after CH followed by Cd. GUAPX and GPX showed similar trends of increase. APX activity dropped after CH, but increased after low Cd treatment and in CH ? DR sequential stresses. Massive accumulation of soluble Pro occurred after 14-21 days in highly Cd-or Pb-stressed plants. CH or DR acclimation led to some alterations of antioxidative responses, particularly for CAT, GR, and APX. Our data indicate that GSH, GSH-linked redox systems, peroxidases, and Pro are possibly the more important antioxidants under severe stress.