Reactive oxygen metabolites (ROMs) are involved in inflammatory diseases and are postulated to contribute to tissue injury in colitis. To determine whether excessive ROMs are generated by inflamed colonic mucosa and to identify possible sources and type of ROMs, mucosal ROMs were estimated in rats and humans using a chemiluminescence probe. Colitis was induced in rats by intracolonic injection of acetic acid or intraperitoneal injection of mitomycin C. Intact, inflamed colon in rats produced more ultraweak chemiluminescence than normal colon. Inflamed mucosal scrapings from both rat models produced significantly more luminol-enhanced chemiluminescence. Addition of catalase, an H2O2 scavenger, or azide, a myeloperoxidase inhibitor, into the media significantly decreased chemiluminescence from inflamed mucosal scrapings. Indomethacin, an antioxidant cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor, also decreased chemiluminescence, but MK-866, a 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor, had no effect. Colonic biopsy specimens obtained during colonoscopy from patients with ulcerative colitis also produced more catalase-inhibitable chemiluminescence than normal colonic mucosa. These data indicate that excessive ROMs are produced by inflamed colonic mucosa in both humans and rats, which may contribute to tissue injury.