Vacuolation in cellular organelles within the central nervous system is a common manifestation of oxidative injury. We found that the spongiform vacuolation observed in PVC-211 murine leukemia virus (PVC-MuLV) neurodegeneration was associated with oxidative damage as detected by immunoreactivity for 3-nitrotyrosine and protein carbonyl groups. This oxidative injury was present in brain before or concomitant with the appearance of activated microglia, vacuolation, and gliosis that characterize PVC-MuLV neuropathology. Treatment of infected F344 rat pups with the antioxidant vitamin E transiently protected and prolonged the latency of PVC-MuLV neurodegeneration. Taken together, these findings implicate oxidative damage and lipid peroxidation in the pathogenesis of PVC-MuLV neurodegeneration. This animal model may be useful for studies of mechanisms and potential therapies for progressive neurodegeneration following a well-defined insult.