BACKGROUND: Uteroglobin (UG) is a secretary protein that has strong immunomodulatory properties, and which is synthesized in most epithelia including lung tissue. Overexpression of UG is associated with decreased expression of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 and suppression of cancer cell growth. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) catalyzes tryptophan along the kynurenine pathway, and both the reduction in local tryptophan and the production of tryptophan metabolites contribute to the immunosuppressive effects of IDO. METHODS: In this study, we investigated the pattern of expression of COX-2 and IDO, and the effect of UG transduction in the expression of COX-2 and IDO in several non-small cell lung cancer cell lines, especially A549. RESULTS: Both COX-2 and IDO were constitutionally expressed in A549 and H460 cells, and was reduced by UG transduction. In A549 cells, the slightly increased expression of COX-2 and IDO with the instillation of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) was reduced by UG transduction. However, the reduced expression of COX-2 and IDO by UG transduction was not increased with IFN-gamma instillation in A549 cells. In both the A549 COX-2 sense and the A549 COX-2 anti-sense small interfering RNA (siRNA)-transfected cells, IDO was expressed; expression was reduced by UG transduction, irrespective of the expression of COX-2. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that the anti-proliferative function of UG may be associated with the immune tolerance pathway of IDO, which is independent of the COX-2 pathway.