The antiulcerogenic effect of diffractaic acid (DA) isolated from Usnea longissima, a lichen species, on indomethacin (IND)-induced gastric lesions was investigated in rats. Administration of 25, 50, 100 and 200 mg/kg doses of DA and ranitidine (RAN) (50 mg/kg dose) reduced the gastric lesions by 43.5%, 52.9%, 91.4%, 96.7% and 72.7%, respectively. It is known that oxidative stress leads to tissue injury in organisms. Thus, in all treated groups of rats, the in vivo activities of the antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and the levels of reduced glutathione (GSH) and lipid peroxidation (LPO) were evaluated. IND caused oxidative stress, which resulted in LPO in tissues, by decreasing the levels of GPx, SOD and GSH as compared to healthy rats. In contrast to IND, the administration of DA and RAN showed a significant decrease in LPO level and an increase in tissue SOD, GPx and GSH levels. However, while CAT activity was significantly increased by the administration of IND, the administration of DA and RAN decreased CAT activity. The administration of IND also increased the myeloperoxidase (MPx) activity, which shows neutrophil infiltration into the gastric mucosal tissues. In contrast to IND, the administration of DA and RAN decreased Wx activity. The changes in activities of gastric mucosal nitric oxide synthases (NOS) throughout the development of gastric mucosal damage induced by IND were also studied. A decrease in constitutive NOS (cNOS) activity and an increase in inducible NOS (iNOS) activity were determined in gastric damaged tissues induced by IND. The administration of DA (100 mg/kg dose) and RAN reversed the activities of iNOS and cNOS. These results suggest that the gastroprotective effect of DA can be attributed to its enhancing effects on antioxidant defense systems as well as reducing effects of neutrophil infiltration. (c) 2005 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.