Inhibition of the mammalian soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) is a promising new therapy in the treatment of disorders resulting from hypertension and vascular inflammation. A spectrophotometric assay (4-nitrophenyl-trans-2,3-epoxy-3-phenylpropyl carbonate, NEPC) is currently used to screen libraries of chemicals; however this assay lacks the required sensitivity to differentiate the most potent inhibitors. A series of fluorescent alpha-cyanoester and alpha-cyanocarbonate epoxides that produce a strong fluorescent signal on epoxide hydrolysis by both human and murine sEH were designed as potential substrates for an in vitro inhibition assay. The murine enzyme showed a broad range of specificities, whereas the human enzyme showed the highest specificity for cyano(6-methoxy-naphthalen-2-yl)methyl trans-[(3-phenyloxiran-2-yl)methyl] carbonate. An in vitro inhibition assay was developed using this substrate and recombinant enzyme. The utility of the fluorescent assay was confirmed by determining the IC(50) values for a series of known inhibitors. The new IC(50) values were compared with those determined by spectrophotometric NEPC and radioactive tDPPO assays. The fluorescent assay ranked these inhibitors on the basis of IC(50) values, whereas the NEPC assay did not. The ranking of inhibitor potency generally agreed with that determined using the tDPPO assay. These results show that the fluorescence-based assay is a valuable tool in the development of sEH inhibitors by revealing structure-activity relationships that previously were seen only by using the costly and labor-intensive radioactive tDPPO assay.