The effect of lipid composition on the distribution of free radical oxidation products derived from arachidonic acid (20:4) esters has been studied in vitro and in vivo. Pro-inflammatory prostaglandin (PG) F2-like compounds, termed F2-isoprostanes (IsoPs), are produced in vivo and in vitro by the free radical-catalyzed peroxidation of arachidonic acid. Controlled free radical oxidation of mixtures of fatty acid esters in vitro showed that the formation of IsoPs from arachidonate is dramatically influenced by the presence of other fatty acid esters in the reaction mixture. Thus, three lipid mixtures containing the same arachidonate concentration but different amounts of other fatty esters (16:0; 18:1; 18:2; 20:5, and 22:6) were oxidized, and the product yields were determined by GC and LC/MS/MS analysis. The yield of F2-IsoP formed after 1 h of oxidation was 18% (based on arachidonate consumed) for mixtures containing arachidonate as the only oxidizable PUFA, but yields of these biologically active compounds dropped to 6% in polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) mixtures typical of those found in tissues of fish oil-fed animals. F2-IsoP levels were also monitored in the livers of mice on diets supplemented with eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5 omega-3; EPA), the PUFA most abundant in fish oil. While the level of arachidonic acid present in livers was not significantly different from that in control animals, levels of IsoPs in the liver were reduced in the EPA-fed mice compared to those in controls under conditions of oxidative stress (60 +/- 25% reduction, n = 5) or at baseline (48 +/- 14% reduction, n = 5). These results suggest that dietary omega-3 PUFAs may influence the formation of bio-active peroxidation products derived from omega-6 PUFAs by channeling the free radical pathway away from the F2-IsoPs.