Gastrotoxic activities of different non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (diclofenac, indomethacin, ketoprofen, naproxen and piroxicam) administered per os were compared with their ability to inhibit gastric prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) synthesis in the rat. In a parallel study, effects of pretreatment with zinc acexamate (ZAC) were also assessed. NSAIDs invariably caused gastric mucosal damage and a decrease of PGE2 levels. A good correlation between the decrease of PGE2 levels and the index of gastric lesion (r = 0.41; p < 0.021) was observed when results obtained with the different NSAIDs were pooled. ZAC pretreatment significantly decreased the overall severity of lesions induced by NSAIDs. However, no correlation between gastric lesion index and depletion of PGE2 gastric levels was observed after treatment with ZAC (r = 0.012; p < 0.948). These data corroborate the hypothesis that preservation of the capability to synthesize endogenous PGs is of critical importance in the maintenance of gastric mucosal integrity. The gastroprotective action observed with ZAC involves alternative mechanisms other than modification of PGE2 levels.