Bothrops snake venoms produce marked local effects, including oedema, haemorrhage and necrosis. The ability of Bothrops insularis venom to induce oedema in mice was investigated. Venom was injected into hind paws and the change in volume over time was measured by plethysmometry. B. insularis venom (0.01-2.5 microg/paw) induced paw oedema which, at high doses (>/=0.5 microg/paw), was accompanied by haemorrhage. The peak oedematogenic response occurred 3 h after venom injection with all doses and decreased gradually thereafter, but was still elevated with high doses after 24 h. Pretreating the mice with cyproheptadine (histamine H(1) and serotonin 5-HT(2) receptor antagonist), mepyramine (histamine H(1) receptor antagonist), L-NAME (inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase), indomethacin and rofecoxib (inhibitors of cyclooxygenases), and dexamethasone (indirect inhibitor of PLA(2)) significantly attenuated venom-induced oedema, whereas methysergide, a serotonin 5-HT(1)/5-HT(2) receptor antagonist, had no effect. The administration of antivenom 30 min before or immediately after venom injection also significantly inhibited venom-induced oedema. These results show that B. insularis venom causes oedema in the mouse hind paw and that this response is mediated by histamine, nitric oxide, and arachidonic acid metabolites formed by cyclooxygenases 1 and 2. The neutralization by commercial antivenom indicates that the venom components responsible for oedema are recognized by the antivenom and share immunological identity with their counterparts in the venoms of mainland Bothrops species.