External surfaces of cells are normally protected by extracellular superoxide dismutase, SOD3, which binds to polyanions such as heparan sulfate. We constructed a fusion gene encoding a chimeric SOD consisting of the mature human mitochondrial SOD2 plus the COOH-terminal 26-amino acid heparin-binding "tail" from SOD3. This tail is responsible for the enzyme's affinity for endothelial surfaces. The fusion gene was expressed in Escherichia coli, and the fully active enzyme SOD2/3 was purified. Although native SOD2 has no affinity for heparin, SOD2/3 binds to a heparin-agarose column. In a rat model of acute lung injury induced by intratracheal instillation of IL-1, SOD2/3, SOD2, and denatured SOD2/3 showed 92%, 13.8%, and 0% reduction of lung leak, respectively. Only SOD2/3 prevented neutrophil accumulation. In the carrageenan-induced foot edema model in the rat, SOD2/3 reduced edema by 62% (P < 0.003) at a dose in which native SOD2 produced no significant effect. Thus SOD2/3 appears to have properties as a therapeutic anti-inflammatory agent that are greatly superior to other available forms of the enzyme.