Arachidonic acid (AA) liberation and metabolism via cyclo-oxygenase or lipoxygenases may be an important regulatory pathway for mitogenic signalling in human cultured airway smooth muscle (ASM) cells. In cytokine-treated cells, thrombin markedly enhances production of the anti-mitogenic arachidonic acid metabolite, PGE(2). In this study, in the absence of cytokines, we examined the role of endogenous AA metabolism in thrombin-stimulated ASM DNA synthesis. Selective inhibitors of cyclo-oxygenase of 5-lipoxygenase metabolism had no significant effect on 0.3 U/ml thrombin-stimulated DNA synthesis. However, the non-selective, redox-active lipoxygenase inhibitors NDGA and BWA4C inhibited thrombin-stimulated DNA synthesis. Under basal conditions, and following stimulation by thrombin, the levels of the AA metabolites PGE(2), TxA(2), and LTC(4), remained below assay detection limits. Exogenous addition of AA, LTD(4), or 5-, 12-, and 15-HETE and HpETE metabolites had no consistent or substantial stimulatory effect on either basal or thrombin-stimulated DNA synthesis. These data suggest that the non-selective lipoxygenase inhibitors influence DNA synthesis via effects unrelated to lipoxygenase inhibition. The lack of detection of AA metabolites, the lack of influence of selective antagonists/inhibitors of the AA pathway, and the failure of selected AA metabolites to either enhance or directly stimulate DNA synthesis suggest that in the absence of cytokines, cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase metabolism has little role in signalling of human ASM DNA synthesis by thrombin.