The 21-aminosteroid tirilazad mesylate (U74006F) is a lipophilic antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been reported to attenuate brain or spinal cord injury caused by trauma, stroke, ischemia and reperfusion injury. In this study, we have examined the effect of U74006F in reducing the inflammatory parameters of trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS)-induced inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in rats. To induce IBD, rats were given ethanolic TNBS intracolonically. Rats received either 1) TNBS and U74006F 2) TNBS and vehicle or 3) saline and vehicle. Rats were sacrificed 1, 2 and 3 weeks after IBD induction. Colon to body weight ratio (an index of tissue edema) was markedly increased in the vehicle-treated IBD rats after 1 week of administration of TNBS. The ratio was significantly lower after U74006F treatment and the trend remained even after 3 weeks of chronic inflammation. Myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity in vehicle-treated IBD rats was substantially increased compared with controls during the entire 3 weeks of the experiment. U74006F-treated animals had significantly reduced MPO activity (60% lower) when compared with vehicle-treated animals at the end of the second and third weeks. These observations were confirmed by histopathology studies showing reduced granulocyte infiltration after drug treatment. U74006F treatment decreased basal (by 70%) and fMLP stimulated (by 75%) superoxide generation from colonic tissue from IBD rats compared with vehicle treatment after 2 weeks, but there was no apparent difference in superoxide generation among all three groups after 3 weeks. The results of this study suggested that administration of U74006F effectively reduces the inflammatory parameters in this chronic rat model of IBD. As such, U74006F may be therapeutically beneficial for the treatment of IBD in humans.