The further conversion of an arachidonic acid hydroperoxide to a leukotriene A (LTA) type epoxide by specific lipoxygenase (LOX) enzymes constitutes a key step in inflammatory mediator biosynthesis. Whereas mammalian 5-LOX transforms its primary product (5S-hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid; 5S-HPETE) almost exclusively to LTA(4), the model enzyme, soybean LOX-1, normally produces no detectable leukotrienes and instead further oxygenates its primary product 15S-HPETE to 5,15- and 8,15-dihydroperoxides. Mammalian 15-LOX-1 displays both types of activity. We reasoned that availability of molecular oxygen within the LOX active site favors oxygenation, whereas lack of O(2) promotes LTA epoxide synthesis. To test this, we reacted 15S-HPETE with soybean LOX-1 under anaerobic conditions and identified the products by high pressure liquid chromatography, UV, mass spectrometry, and NMR. Among the products, we identified a pair of 8,15-dihydroxy diastereomers with all-trans-conjugated trienes that incorporated (18)O from H(2)(18)O at C-8, indicative of the formation of 14,15-LTA(4). A pair of 5,15-dihydroxy diastereomers containing two trans,trans-conjugated dienes (6E,8E,11E,13E) and that incorporated (18)O from H(2)(18)O at C-5 was deduced to arise from hydrolysis of a novel epoxide containing a cyclopropyl ring, 14,15-epoxy-[9,10,11-cyclopropyl]-eicosa-5Z,7E,13E-trienoic acid. Also identified was the delta-lactone of the 5,15-diol, a derivative that exhibited no (18)O incorporation due to its formation by intramolecular reaction of the carboxyl anion with the proposed epoxide intermediate. Our results support a model in which access to molecular oxygen within the active site directs the outcome from competing pathways in the secondary reactions of lipoxygenases.