Nitric oxide may be liberated as an inflammatory mediator within injured peripheral nerve trunks. We evaluated the proximal stumps of injured peripheral nerve stumps that later form neuromas or regenerative nerve sprouts, for evidence of local nitric oxide elaboration and activity. Proximal stumps were created in male Sprague-Dawley rats by sectioning of the sciatic nerve and resection of its distal portions and branches. There was striking physiological evidence of nitric oxide activity at the tips of 48-h and 14-day-old proximal nerve stumps. We detected local nitric oxide-mediated hyperemia of both extrinsic plexus and endoneurial microvessels that was reversible, in a dose-dependent stereospecific fashion, by the broad-spectrum nitric oxide synthase inhibitors, Nomega-nitro-L-arginine-methyl ester or Nomega-nitro-L-arginine, but not by 7-nitroindazole, an inhibitor with relative selectivity for neuronal nitric oxide. Immunohistochemical studies provided evidence for the localization of nitric oxide generators at the same sites. In 48-h but not 14-day stumps increased expression of two isoforms of nitric oxide synthase was detected: endothelial nitric oxide and to a much lesser extent neuronal nitric oxide synthase. Both isoforms appeared in axonal endbulb-like profiles that co-localized with neurofilament immunostaining. Western immunoblots identified a band consistent with endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression. In 14-day stumps with early neuroma formation, but not 48-h stumps, there was staining for immunological nitric oxide synthase in some endoneurial and epineurial macrophages. Total nitric oxide synthase biochemical enzymatic activity, measured by labelled arginine to citrulline conversion, was increased in 14-day but not 48-h stumps. Injured peripheral nerves have evidence of early nitric oxide action, nitric oxide synthase expression and nitric oxide activity in proximal nerve stumps. Nitric oxide may have an important impact on the regenerative milieu.