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The effect of alveolar oxygen tension on lung lipid peroxidation during lung ischemia was evaluated by using isolated rat lungs perfused with synthetic medium. After a 5-min equilibration period, global ischemia was produced by discontinuing perfusion while ventilation continued with gas mixtures containing 5% CO2 and a fixed oxygen concentration between 0 and 95%. Lipid peroxidation was assessed by measurement of tissue thiobarbituric acid-reactive products and conjugated dienes. Control studies (no ischemia) showed no change in parameters of lipid peroxidation during 1 h of perfusion and ventilation with 20% or 95% O2. With 60 min of ischemia, there was increased lipid peroxidation which varied with oxygen content of the ventilating gas and was markedly inhibited by ventilation with N2. Perfusion with 5-, 8-, 11-, 14-eicosatetraynoic acid indicated that generation of eicosanoids during ischemia accounted for approximately 40-50% of lung lipid peroxide production. Changes of CO2 content of the ventilating gas (to alter tissue pH) or of perfusate glucose concentration had no effect on lipid peroxidation during ischemia, but perfusion at 8% of the normal flow rate prevented lipid peroxidation. Lung dry/wet weight measured after 3 min of reperfusion showed good correlation between lung fluid accumulation and lipid peroxidation. These results indicate that reperfusion is not necessary for lipid peroxidation with ischemic insult of the lung and provide evidence that elevated PO2 during ischemia accelerates the rate of tissue injury.