In the present work, we demonstrated that chemically different nitric oxide (NO)-releasing compounds inhibit tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha)-induced polymorphonuclear leukocyte adhesion to endothelial cells in vitro. Two mesoionic oxatriazole derivatives GEA 3162 (1,2,3,4-oxatriazolium,5-amino-3(3, 4-dichlorophenyl)-chloride) and GEA 3175 (1,2,3,4-oxatriazolium, -3-(3-chloro-2-methylphenyl)-5-[[(4-methylphenyl)sulfonyl]amino]-, hydroxide inner salt) were compared to the earlier-known NO donor SIN-1 (3-morpholino-sydnonimine). GEA 3162 (3-10 microM) and GEA 3175 (10-30 microM) inhibited human polymorphonuclear leukocyte adhesion to B(4) endothelial cells in a dose-dependent manner being more potent than SIN-1. In the present model, leukocytes rather than endothelial cells seemed to be the target of the effect of NO. Flow cytometric analysis showed that NO-releasing compounds did not alter TNF-alpha induced CD11/CD18 surface expression in polymorphonuclear leukocytes. The inhibitory action of NO-releasing compounds on adhesion paralleled with the increased synthesis of cGMP in polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Analogues of cGMP inhibited polymorphonuclear leukocyte adhesion indicating a role for cGMP in the action of NO donors. The results suggest that exogenous NO in the form of NO-releasing compounds inhibits polymorphonuclear leukocyte adhesion to endothelial cells, which may be implicated in the regulation of leukocyte migration and leukocyte-mediated tissue injury.