An enzyme responsible for the oxidation of dopamine and formation of neuromelanin in brain has not been identified. Prostaglandin H synthase is prominent in brain and possesses peroxidase activity that may cooxidize dopamine to reactive dopamine quinones. This study examined the ability of purified prostaglandin H synthase to catalyze the oxidation of dopamine in vitro. Dopamine oxidation was determined by monitoring the formation of aminochrome and by examining catechol-modified residues on protein present in the reaction mixture. Aminochrome was formed from dopamine in the presence of prostaglandin H synthase, and the reaction rate was dependent on the concentration of substrate and enzyme in the reaction mixture. Both arachidonic acid and hydrogen peroxide could serve as substrates for the prostaglandin H synthase-catalyzed oxidation of dopamine. Indomethacin blocked the reaction when arachidonic acid was used as a substrate, but not when hydrogen peroxide was used. Enzymatically oxidized dopamine covalently bound to protein, as indicated by the presence of cysteinyl-dopamine residues. Binding was significantly reduced in the absence of enzyme or in the presence of antioxidants. These results suggest that the peroxidase activity of prostaglandin H synthase is responsible for catalyzing the oxidation of dopamine to reactive dopamine quinones. It is possible that prostaglandin H synthase is responsible for the oxidation of dopamine and formation of neuromelanin in vivo, which may have implications for the development of Parkinson's disease. Furthermore, drugs such as aspirin that modulate the activity of this enzyme may provide a potential therapeutic approach for the prevention of Parkinson's disease.