Cyclooxygenase type 1 is constitutively expressed and accounts for synthesis of prostaglandins in the normal gastrointestinal tract. Cyclooxygenase-2 is expressed at sites of inflammation. Selective inhibitors of cyclooxygenase-2 have been suggested to spare gastrointestinal prostaglandin synthesis, and therefore lack the ulcerogenic effects associated with standard nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. However, the effects of cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors on inflamed gastrointestinal mucosa have not been examined. We examined cyclooxygenase-2 mRNA and protein expression before and after induction of colitis in the rat, the contribution of cyclooxygenase-2 to colonic prostaglandin synthesis during colitis and the effects of selective inhibitors of cyclooxygenase-2 on colonic injury in this model. Cyclooxygenase-2 mRNA expression increased three to sixfold during the period 24 h to 1 wk after induction of colitis, with marked increases in cyclooxygenase-2 protein expression in the lamina propria and muscularis of the colon during colitis. Cyclooxygenase-1 expression (mRNA and protein) was not affected by the induction of colitis. The prostaglandins produced during colitis were largely derived from cyclooxygenase-2. Treatment with selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors resulted in exacerbation of colitis, with perforation occurring when the compounds were administered for a week. These studies demonstrate that suppression of cyclooxygenase-2 can result in exacerbation of inflammation-associated colonic injury.