Although phenylalanine (Phe) is known to be neurotoxic in phenylketonuria (PKU), its exact pathogenetic mechanisms of brain damage are still poorly known. Furthermore, much less is known about the role of the Phe derivatives phenylacetic (PAA), phenyllactic (PLA) and phenylpyruvic (PPA) acids that also accumulate in this this disorder on PKU neuropathology. Previous in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that Phe elicits oxidative stress in brain of rodents and that this deleterious process also occurs in peripheral tissues of phenylketonuric patients. In the present study, we investigated whether Phe and its derivatives PAA, PLA and PPA separately or in combination could induce reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation and provoke DNA damage in C6 glial cells. We also tested the role of L-carnitine (L-car), which has been recently considered an antioxidant agent and easily cross the blood brain barrier on the alterations of C6 redox status provoked by Phe and its metabolites. We first observed that cell viability was not changed by Phe and its metabolites. Furthermore, Phe, PAA, PLA and PPA, at concentrations found in plasma of PKU patients, provoked marked DNA damage in the glial cells separately and when combined. Of note, these effects were totally prevented (Phe, PAA and PPA) or attenuated (PLA) by L-car pre-treatment. In addition, a potent ROS formation also induced by Phe and PAA, whereas only moderate increases of ROS were caused by PPA and PLA. Pre-treatment with L-car also prevented Phe- and PAA-induced ROS generation, but not that provoked by PLA and PPA. Thus, our data show that Phe and its major metabolites accumulated in PKU provoke extensive DNA damage in glial cells probably by ROS formation and that L-car may potentially represent an adjuvant therapeutic agent in PKU treatment.