We have employed the electron spin resonance spin-trapping technique to study the reaction of Co(II) with hydrogen peroxide in a chemical system and in a microsomal system. In both cases, we employed the spin trap 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline N-oxide (DMPO) and were able to detect the formation of DMPO/.OH and DMPO/.OOH. DMPO/.OOH was the predominant radical adduct formed in the chemical system, while the two adducts were of similar concentrations in the microsomal system. The formation of both of these adducts in either reaction system was inhibited by the addition of superoxide dismutase or catalase, and by chelating the cobalt with either ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) or diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA). The incorporation of the hydroxyl radical scavengers ethanol, formate, benzoate, or mannitol inhibited the formation of DMPO/.OH in both systems. We also repeated the study using Fe(II) in place of Co(II). In contrast to the Co(II) results, Fe(II) reacted with hydrogen peroxide to yield only DMPO/.OH, and this adduct formation was relatively insensitive to the presence of added superoxide dismutase. In addition, Fe(II)-mediated DMPO/.OH formation increased when the iron was chelated to either EDTA or DTPA rather than being inhibited as for Co(II). Thus, we propose that Co(II) does not react with hydrogen peroxide by the classical Fenton reaction at physiological pH values.