We tested the hypothesis that the gastrotoxicity of ethanol and other damaging agents is influenced through the modulation of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) by using either the ADH-inhibitor pyrazole or the noninhibitor derivatives of pyrazole. In time course experiments, the protection by both compounds was evident up to 48 hr before ethanol administration. Both drugs were also protected, from about 24 hr, from gastric mucosal damage induced by aspirin and hydrochloric acid. In order to examine the role of endogenous prostaglandins and sulfhydryls in this protection, indomethacin and N-ethylmaleimide were used, of which only the sulfhydryl alkylator antagonized (by about 50%) the protection by pyrazole and 3-methylpyrazole. Studies with monastral blue B revealed the protective role of both pyrazole and 3-methylpyrazole against early vascular injury in the gastric mucosa. We conclude that because both the ADH-inhibitor pyrazole and the noninhibitor derivatives of pyrazole exert gastro-protection, and because both compounds protect against aspirin and HCI, ADH inhibition is not involved in this protection. We also suggest that although prostaglandins appear to have minimal involvement in the mechanism of protection, endogenous sulfhydryls may be important mediators. Furthermore, the functional and structural mechanism of this protection seems to be the prevention of acute vascular injury.