The effects of a single oral administration of acetylsalicylic acid (500 mg), indomethacin (50 mg) and piroxicam (40 mg) to healthy volunteers on functional and biochemical parameters of platelets, polymorphonuclear (PMN) and mononuclear (MNL) leukocytes were evaluated. Blood was collected before and two hours after the drug intake and blood cells separated according to conventional techniques. The considered drugs almost completely suppressed the aggregation of platelets, whereas they did not affect either PMN and MNL aggregation. Superoxide anion generation by leukocytes was (PMN), or no effect (MNL) was observed after piroxicam and indomethacin respectively. The formation of arachidonate metabolites via the 5-lipoxygenase pathway by PMN and MNL challenged with 10 microM A23187 was unchanged following aspirin and indomethacin. In this respect a selective increase of 5-HETE and LTC4 synthesis by MNL only was detected after piroxicam administration. The three drugs similarly reduced TXB2 synthesis by platelets and PMN (-80% for aspirin and indomethacin, and -40% for piroxicam). As far as MNL is concerned, aspirin inhibited this metabolite by 80%, while indomethacin reduced it by 40% only. In contrast piroxicam increased TXB2 synthesis by stimulated MNL. It can be concluded that the considered antiinflammatory drugs 1) differently affect the cyclooxygenase enzyme in platelets and leukocytes; 2) at variance with the situation in platelets, the inhibition of thromboxane formation by leukocytes is not related to modifications of cellular function; 3) the formation of arachidonate metabolites via the 5-lipoxygenase pathway is affected by piroxicam only.