The present study was undertaken to determine the effect of cadmium (Cd) on the antioxidant status of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. S. cerevisiae serves as a good eukaryotic model system for the study of the molecular mechanisms of oxidative stress. We investigated the adaptative response of S. cerevisiae exposed to Cd. Yeast cells could tolerate up to 100 microM Cd and an inhibition in the growth and viability was observed. Exposure of yeast cells to Cd showed an increase in malondialdehyde and glutathione. The activities of catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase were also high in Cd-exposed cells. The incorporation of Cd led to significant increase in iron, zinc and inversely the calcium, copper levels were reduced. The results suggest that antioxidants were increased and are involved in the protection against macromolecular damage during oxidative stress; presumably, these enzymes are essential for counteracting the pro-oxidant effects of Cd.