Oxidant stress plays an important role in the etiology of vascular diseases by increasing rates of endothelial cell apoptosis, but few data exist on the mechanisms involved. Using a unique model of oxidative stress based on selenium deficiency (-Se), the effects of altered eicosanoid production on bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC) apoptosis was evaluated. Oxidant stress significantly increased the immediate oxygenation product of arachidonic acid metabolized by the 15-lipoxygenase pathway, 15-hydroxyperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid (15-HPETE). Treatment of -Se BAEC with TNFalpha/cyclohexamide (CHX) exhibited elevated levels of apoptosis, which was significantly reduced by the addition of a specific 15-lipoxygenase inhibitor PD146176. Furthermore, the addition of 15-HPETE to PD146176-treated BAEC, partially restored TNF/CHX-induced apoptosis. Increased exposure to 15-HPETE induced apoptosis, as determined by internucleosomal DNA fragmentation, chromatin condensation, caspase-3 activation, and caspase-9 activation, which suggests mitochondrial dysfunction. The expression of Bcl-2 protein also was decreased in -Se BAEC. Addition of a caspase-9 inhibitor (LEHD-fmk) completely blocked 15-HPETE-induced chromatin condensation in -Se BAEC, suggesting that 15-HPETE-induced apoptosis is caspase-9 dependent. Increased apoptosis of BAEC as a result of oxidant stress and subsequent production of 15-HPETE may play a critical role in a variety of inflammatory based diseases.