Although cycloooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is upregulated by factors associated with oral mucositis, its role in the pathogenesis of mucositis has not been studied. We investigated the kinetics of mucosal COX-2 expression following radiation exposure, and assessed its relationship to the development of oral mucositis in an established animal model using immunohistochemical endpoints. While little or no COX-2 expression was observed in unirradiated mucosa or in tissue taken 2 days after radiation, COX-2 expression was dramatic on days 10 and 16, especially in submucosal fibroblasts and endothelium. The kinetics of COX-2 expression paralleled mucositis severity. A burst of angiogenic activity was seen on day 21 following peak COX-2 expression. The kinetics of COX-2 expression relative to mucositis progression suggests that COX-2 is not a primary driver of radiation injury, but instead plays an amplifying role.