Free radical-mediated oxidant injury and lipid peroxidation have been implicated in a number of neural disorders. We have reported that bioactive prostaglandin D2/E2-like compounds, termed D2/E2-isoprostanes, are produced in vivo by the free radical-catalyzed peroxidation of arachidonic acid. Docosahexaenoic acid, in contrast to arachidonic acid, is the most abundant unsaturated fatty acid in brain. We therefore questioned whether D/E-isoprostane-like compounds (D4/E4-neuroprostanes) are formed from the oxidation of docosahexaenoic acid. Levels of putative D4/E4-neuroprostanes increased 380-fold after oxidation of docosahexaenoic acid in vitro from 15.2 +/- 6.3 to 5773 +/- 1024 ng/mg of docosahexaenoic acid. Subsequently, chemical approaches and liquid chromatography electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry definitively identified these compounds as D4/E4-neuroprostanes. We then explored the formation of D4/E4-neuroprostanes from a biological source, rat brain synaptosomes. Basal levels of D4/E4-neuroprostanes were 3.8 +/- 0.6 ng/mg of protein and increased 54-fold after oxidation (n = 4). We also detected these compounds in fresh brain tissue from rats at levels of 12.1 +/- 2.4 ng/g of brain tissue (n = 3) and in human brain tissue at levels of 9.2 +/- 4.1 ng/g of brain tissue (n = 4). Thus, these studies have identified novel D/E-ring isoprostane-like compounds that are derived from docosahexaenoic acid and that are formed in brain in vivo. The fact that they are readily detectable suggests that ongoing oxidative stress is present in the central nervous system of humans and animals. Further, identification of these compounds provides a rationale for examining their role in neurological disorders associated with oxidant stress.