The contribution of decameric vanadate species to vanadate toxic effects in cardiac muscle was studied following an intravenous administration of a decavanadate solution (1 mM total vanadium) in Sparus aurata. Although decameric vanadate is unstable in the assay medium, it decomposes with a half-life time of 16 allowing studying its effects not only in vitro but also in vivo. After 1, 6 and 12 h upon decavanadate administration the increase of vanadium in blood plasma, red blood cells and in cardiac mitochondria and cytosol is not affected in comparison to the administration of a metavanadate solution containing labile oxovanadates. Cardiac tissue lipid peroxidation increases up to 20%, 1, 6 and 12 h after metavanadate administration, whilst for decavanadate no effects were observed except 1 h after treatment (+20%). Metavanadate administration clearly differs from decavanadate by enhancing, 12 h after exposure, mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity (+115%) and not affecting catalase (CAT) activity whereas decavanadate increases SOD activity by 20% and decreases (-55%) mitochondrial CAT activity. At early times of exposure, 1 and 6 h, the only effect observed upon decavanadate administration was the increase by 20% of SOD activity. In conclusion, decavanadate has a different response pattern of lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress markers, in spite of the same vanadium distribution in cardiac cells observed after decavanadate and metavanadate administration. It is suggested that once formed decameric vanadate species has a different reactivity than vanadate, thus; pointing out that the differential contribution of vanadium oligomers should be taken into account to rationalize ill vivo vanadate toxicity. (c) 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.