We previously reported that genetic susceptibility of mice to peroral infection with T. gondii is associated with CD4+ T cell-dependent, interferon (IFN)-gamma-mediated necrosis of their small intestine. We examined the role of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and nitric oxide (NO), in addition to IFN-gamma. At 7 days after infection, a marked increase in CD4+ T cells was observed in lamina propria mononuclear cells (LPC) of the small intestine as compared with normal mice, and significantly greater amounts of mRNA for IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and inducible NO synthase (iNOS) were detected in LPC of the small intestine of infected than uninfected animals. Treatment of infected mice with anti-TNF-alpha monoclonal antibody (mAb) or the iNOS inhibitor, aminoguanidine, prevented necrosis and prolonged time to death. Infected iNOS-targeted mutant mice did not develop the disease whereas infected, control mice did. Treatment with anti-TNF-alpha mAb did not affect the expression of IFN-gamma in the LPC but inhibited expression of iNOS in the infected mice, indicating the role of TNF-alpha in the induction of iNOS. These results suggest that NO induced by a combination of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha through activation of iNOS is a critical mediator of intestinal pathology and contributes to early mortality in genetically susceptible mice.