Cataract is a multifactorial disease. Osmotic stress, together with weakened antioxidant defence mechanisms, is attributed to the changes observed in human diabetic cataract. Epidemiological studies provide evidence that nutritional antioxidants slow down the progression of cataract. The usefulness of lycopene, a dietary carotenoid, in the pathogenesis of human cataracts has not been studied so far. Since the epithelium is the metabolic unit of the lens, the effect of lycopene on galactose-induced morphological changes and antioxidant status of human lens epithelial cells (HLEC) in culture was evaluated in the present study. HLEC of fresh cadaver eyes obtained from an eye bank were cultured in medium supplemented with fetal calf serum (200 ml/l). On confluency, the cells were subcultured in medium containing either 30 m-d-galactose or 30 mM-d-galactose + lycopene (5, 10 or 20 μM) for 72 h. The cells were observed under the phase-contrast microscope and transmssion electron microscope for any morphological changes and then harvested for the estimation of various biochemical variables. Malondialdeyde, glutathione and antioxidant enzymes were significantly altered in the control as compared with the normal cultures. Vacuolization was also observed in the presence of galactose. Addition of lycopene confers significant protection against these changes in HLEC.