Secretory phospholipase A(2) (sPLA(2)) enzymes have been implicated in the pathogenesis of human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In this study we compared the efficacy of a potent, new and highly selective inhibitor of group IIa human sPLA(2) enzyme (5-(4-benzyloxyphenyl)-4S-(7-phenylheptanoylamino)-pentanoic acid; sPLA(2)I), with that of sulfasalazine, in a rat model of trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS)-induced colitis. Following a single oral dose of sPLA(2)I (5 mg/kg), pharmacoactive levels of drug were detected in the serum within 15 min and for up to 24 h by liquid chromatography mass spectrometry analysis. Rats treated with sPLA(2)I (5 mg/kg/day) prior to induction of colitis were significantly healthier than TNBS-alone rats, as shown by reduced mortality, improved food intake and increased body weight, and significantly reduced colon myeloperoxidase levels, edema, tumour necrosis factor-alpha levels, and colon macroscopic pathology scores after 8 days. Rats pretreated with sulfasalazine (100 mg/kg/day) also had reduced disease expression markers similar to the sPLA(2)I, but exhibited no improvement in colon edema. This study supports a role for the group IIa sPLA(2) enzyme in pathology associated with the TNBS rat model of IBD, and suggests a possible therapeutic application for selective inhibitors of group IIa sPLA(2) inhibitors in the treatment of IBD.