Cyclooxygenases (COX, prostaglandin endoperoxide synthases, PGG/H synthases) are potent mediators of inflammation. While COX-1 is constitutively expressed in a wide range of tissues, COX-2 is cytokine inducible. Although COX-1 expression is observed in normal tissue, enhanced COX-2 expression has been attributed a key role in the development of edema, impeding blood flow and immunomodulation observed in pathologically altered tissues. Here, we have analyzed the expression of COX-1 and COX-2 in 50 gliomas and 10 control brains with no neuropathological alterations by immunohistochemistry; 22 glioblastoma multiforme, 9 anaplastic astrocytomas, 5 protoplasmic astrocytomas, 1 gemistocytic astrocytoma and 13 fibrillary astrocytomas were included in the study. Compared with control brains, accumulation of COX-1 was detected in 20-50% of all cells in both low- and high-grade gliomas. Double-labeling experiments revealed COX-1 expression in subsets of macrophages/microglial cells within the tumor parenchyma and in areas of infiltrative tumor growth. Of the COX-1-positive cells, 90% expressed MHC class II antigens. No COX-1 immunoreactivity was observed in tumor cells. COX-2-positive cells accumulated in tumor cells and in single macrophages/microglial cells in the immediate vicinity of necroses. Further studies are required to determine whether COX-2 is involved in the development of necrosis or, more likely, whether COX-2 is a part of the tumor tissue response to necrosis.