The effects of anthocyanidins, the aglycon nucleuses of anthocyanins widely occurring in reddish fruits and vegetables, on the expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) were investigated in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated murine macrophage RAW264 cells. Of five anthocyanidins, delphinidin and cyanidin inhibited LPS-induced COX-2 expression, but pelargonidin, peonidin and malvidin did not. The structure-activity relationship suggest that the ortho-dihydroxyphenyl structure of anthocyanidins on the B-ring appears to be related with the inhibitory actions. Delphinidin, the most potent inhibitor, caused a dose-dependent inhibition of COX-2 expression at both mRNA and protein levels. Western blotting analysis indicated that delphinidin inhibited the degradation of IkappaB-alpha, nuclear translocation of p65 and CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP)delta and phosphorylation of c-Jun, but not CRE-binding protein (CREB). Moreover, delphinidin suppressed the activations of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) including c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and p38 kinase. MAPK inhibitors (U0126 for MEK1/2, SB203580 for p38 kinase and SP600125 for JNK) specifically blocked LPS-induced COX-2 expression. Thus, our results demonstrated that LPS-induced COX-2 expression by activating MAPK pathways and delphinidin suppressed COX-2 by blocking MAPK-mediated pathways with the attendant activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), activator protein-1 (AP-1) and C/EBPdelta. These findings provide the first molecular basis that anthocyanidins with ortho-dihydroxyphenyl structure may have anti-inflammatory properties through the inhibition of MAPK-mediated COX-2 expression.