In humans eicosapentaenoic acid can be converted to 3-series prostaglandins (PGF3 alpha, PGI3, and PGE3). Whether 3-series prostaglandins can protect the gastric mucosa from injury as effectively as their 2-series analogs is unknown. Therefore, we compared the protective effects of PGF3 alpha and PGF2 alpha against gross and microscopic gastric mucosal injury in rats. Animals received a subcutaneous injection of either PGF3 alpha or PGF2 alpha in doses ranging from 0 (vehicle) to 16.8 mumol/kg and 30 min later they received intragastric administration of 1 ml of absolute ethanol. Whether mucosal injury was assessed 60 min or 5 min after ethanol, PGF3 alpha was significantly less protective against ethanol-induced damage than PGF2 alpha. These findings indicate that the presence of a third double bond in the prostaglandin F molecule between carbons 17 and 18 markedly reduces the protective effects of this prostaglandin on the gastric mucosa.