The effects of (-)-nicotine (0.0005-500 microM), (+)-nicotine (0.0005-50 microM) and (-)-cotinine (0.0005-500 microM) on arachidonic acid metabolism were investigated in Ca2+ ionophore A23187 (calcimycin)-stimulated human whole blood in vitro. (-)-Nicotine and (-)-cotinine stimulated prostaglandin E2 but inhibited thromboxane B2 synthesis, as has been observed previously in A23187-stimulated polymorphonuclear leukocytes and platelet-rich plasma [Saareks, V., Riutta, A., Mucha, I., Alanko, J., Vapaatalo, H., 1993. Nicotine and cotinine modulate eicosanoid production in human leukocytes and platelet rich plasma. Eur. J. Pharmacol., 248, 345-349.]. (+)-Nicotine also stimulated prostaglandin E2 but inhibited thromboxane B2 synthesis. High concentrations of (-)-nicotine and (-)-cotinine and even nanomolar concentrations of (+)-nicotine inhibited leukotriene E4 synthesis. These results indicate that (-)-nicotine and (-)-cotinine stimulate cyclooxygenase but inhibit thromboxane synthase and 5-lipoxygenase in whole blood in vitro. (+)-Nicotine is capable of affecting in the same direction as well.