Cyclooxygenase (Cox), also known as prostaglandin (PG) H synthase (EC 18.104.22.168), catalyzes the rate-limiting step in the formation of inflammatory PGs. A major regulatory step in PG biosynthesis is at the level of Cox: growth factors, cytokines, and tumor promoters induce Cox activity. We have cloned the second form of the Cox gene (Cox-2) from human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC). The cDNA encodes a polypeptide of 604 amino acids that is 61% identical to the previously isolated human Cox-1 polypeptide. In vitro translation of the human (h)Cox-2 transcript in rabbit reticulocyte lysates resulted in the synthesis of a 70-kDa protein that is immunoprecipitated by antiserum to ovine Cox. Expression of the hCox-2 open reading frame in Cos-7 monkey kidney cells results in the elaboration of cyclooxygenase activity. hCox-2 cDNA hybridizes to a 4.5-kilobase mRNA species in HUVEC, whereas the hCox-1 cDNA hybridizes to 3- and 5.3-kilobase species. Both Cox-1 and Cox-2 mRNAs are expressed in HUVEC, vascular smooth muscle cells, monocytes, and fibroblasts. Cox-2 mRNA was preferentially induced by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and lipopolysaccharide in human endothelial cells and monocytes. Together, these data demonstrate that the Cox enzyme is encoded by at least two genes that are expressed and differentially regulated in a variety of cell types. High-level induction of the hCox-2 transcript in mesenchymal-derived inflammatory cells suggests a role in inflammatory conditions.