Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Moneymaker) plants are chilling sensitive, and do not naturally accumulate glycinebetaine (GB), a metabolite that functions as a stress protectant. We reported previously that exogenous GB application enhanced chilling tolerance in tomato. To understand its protective role better, we have further evaluated various parameters associated with improved tolerance. Although its effect was most pronounced in younger plants, this benefit was diminished 1 week after GB application. When administered by foliar spray, GB was readily taken up and translocated to various organs, with the highest levels being measured in meristematic tissues, including the shoot apices and flower buds. In leaves, the majority of endogenous GB was found in the cytosol; only 0.6-22.0% of the total leaf GB was localized in chloroplasts. Immediately after GB application, levels of H(2)O(2), catalase activity and expression of the catalase gene (CAT1) were all higher in GB-treated than in control plants. One day after exposure to chilling stress, the treated plants had significantly greater catalase activity and CAT1 expression, although their H(2)O(2) levels remained unchanged. During the following 2 d of this chilling treatment, GB-treated plants maintained lower H(2)O(2) levels but had higher catalase activity than the controls. These results suggest that, in addition to protecting macromolecules and membranes directly, GB-enhanced chilling tolerance may involve the induction of H(2)O(2)-mediated antioxidant mechanisms, e.g. enhanced catalase expression and catalase activity.