Topically administered ketorolac (Acular), a cyclooxygenase inhibitor, has recently been reported as clinically beneficial for treating allergic conjunctivitis. The ability of ketorolac to relieve the itching associated with allergic conjunctivitis is intriguing because cyclooxygenase inhibitors are not regarded as useful in treating allergic dermatoses and prostaglandins (PG) do not elicit an itch response in human skin. To gain further insight into the mechanisms involved in the antipruritic activity of ketorolac, we used a method of reproducibly assessing ocular surface itch responses in the guinea pig. The measurement of conjunctival pruritus involved a recently developed behavioral model whereby hind limb scratching episodes directed toward the afflicted area were quantified. Itch-scratch episodes have previously been delineated from foreign body and pain sensations, which do not evoke such a behavioral response. Ketorolac significantly inhibited the itching associated with experimental allergic conjunctivitis. The basis of this antipruritic activity may be ascribed to preventing the biosynthesis of itch-producing PGs because ketorolac inhibited arachidonic acid-induced pruritus. In contrast to skin studies, PGE2 and PGI2 were found to be potent pruritogens at the guinea pig ocular surface. PGD2 was a weak pruritogen, and PGF2 alpha and the thromboxane-mimetic U-46619 produced no meaningful response. Further studies involving selective agonists and antagonists suggested that EP1 receptors, IP receptors and PGD2-sensitive receptors may mediate prostanoid-induced conjunctival itching. No evidence for the involvement of other prostanoid receptor subtypes was obtained. Although the EP1 receptor antagonist AH 6809 and the DP receptor antagonist BW A868C inhibited PGE2- and PGD2-induced itching, respectively, neither antagonist alone significantly affected the itching associated with experimental allergic conjunctivitis. A combination of AH 6809 and BW A868C, however, did exhibit antipruritic activity. It appears that for effective relief of itching in allergic conjunctivitis, it is not sufficient to block the effects of a single pruritogenic PG. It is preferable to reduce the participation of all pruritogenic PGs by either using combined receptor antagonists or by using a cyclooxygenase inhibitor such as ketorolac to block their biosynthesis.