Herein we report an investigation of the efficacy of pyridine and pyrimidine analogs of acetaminophen (ApAP) as peroxyl radical-trapping antioxidants and inhibitors of enzyme-catalyzed lipid peroxidation by cyclooxygenases (COX) and lipoxygenases (LOX). In inhibited autoxidations we find that ApAP, the common analgesic and antipyretic agent, is a very good antioxidant with a rate constant for reaction with peroxyl radicals (k(inh) = 5 x 10(5) M(-1) s(-1)) that is higher than many widely-used phenolic antioxidants, such as the ubiquitous butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). This reactivity is reduced substantially upon incorporation of nitrogen into the phenolic ring, owing to an increase in the O-H bond dissociation enthalpy of pyridinols and pyrimidinols with respect to phenols. Incorporation of nitrogen into the phenolic ring of ApAP was also found to decrease its efficacy as an inhibitor of prostaglandin biosynthesis by ovine COX-1 (oCOX-1). This is explained on the basis of an increase in its oxidation potential and its reduced reactivity as a reducing co-substrate of the peroxidase protoporphyrin. In contrast, the efficacy of ApAP as an inhibitor of lipid hydroperoxide biosynthesis by soybean LOX-1 (sLOX-1) increased upon incorporation of nitrogen into the ring, suggesting a different mechanism of inhibition dependent on the acidity of the phenolic O-H which may involve chelation of the catalytic non-heme iron atom. The greater stability of the 3-pyridinols and 5-pyrimidinols to air oxidation as compared to phenols allowed us to evaluate some electron-rich pyridinols and pyrimidinols as inhibitors of oCOX-1 and sLOX-1. While the pyridinols had the best combination of activities as antioxidants and inhibitors of oCOX-1 and sLOX-1, they were found to be more toxic than ApAP in preliminary assays in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HepG2) cell culture. The pyrimidinols, however, were up to 17-fold more reactive to peroxyl radicals and up to 25-fold better inhibitors of prostaglandin biosynthesis than ApAP, with similar cytotoxicities to HepG2 cells at high levels of exposure.