Cadmium (Cd) is an environmental and industrial pollutant that affects various organs in humans and animals. A body of evidence has accumulated implicating the free radical generation with subsequent oxidative stress in the biochemical and molecular mechanisms of Cd toxicity. Since kidney is the critical target of Cd toxicity, we carried out this study to investigate the effects of diallyl tetrasulfide (DTS), an organosulfur compound derived from garlic on Cd induced toxicity in the kidney of rats and also in the kidney cell line (vero cells). In experimental rats, subcutaneous administration of Cd (3 mg/kg bw/day) for 3 weeks induced renal damage, which was evident from significantly increased levels of serum urea and creatinine with significant decrease in creatinine clearance. A markedly increased levels of lipid peroxidation markers (thiobarbituric acid reactive substances and lipid hydroperoxides) and protein carbonyl contents with significant decrease in nonenzymic antioxidants (total sulphydryl groups, reduced glutathione, vitamin C and vitamin E) and enzymic antioxidants (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione-S-transferase) as well as glutathione metabolizing enzymes (glutathione reductase, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase) were also observed in Cd intoxicated rats. Coadministration of DTS (40 mg/kg bw/day) and Cd resulted in the reversal of the kidney function accompanied by a significant decrease in lipid peroxidation and increase in the antioxidant defense system. In vitro studies with vero cells showed that incubation of DTS (5-50 microg/ml) with Cd (10 microM) significantly reduced the cell death induced by Cd. DTS at 40 microg/ml effectively blocked the cell death and lipid peroxidation induced by Cd (10 microM) indicating its cytoprotective property. Further, the flow cytometric assessment on the level of intracellular reactive oxygen species using a fluorescent probe 2', 7'-dichlorofluorescein diacetate (DCF-DA) confirmed the Cd induced intracellular oxidative stress in vero cells, which was significantly suppressed by DTS (40 microg/ml). The histopathological studies in the kidney of rats also showed that DTS (40 mg/kg bw/day) markedly reduced the toxicity of Cd and preserved the architecture of renal tissue. The present study suggests that the cytoprotective potential of DTS in Cd toxicity might be due to its antioxidant and metal chelating properties, which could be useful for achieving optimum effects in Cd induced renal damage.