Recent evidence suggests that nitric oxide (NO) within the inner medullary collecting duct (IMCD) functions to regulate sodium and water reabsorption. Because fluid shear stress has been shown to increase NO production in endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells, experiments were designed to determine whether a similar mechanism exists in IMCD cells. Cultured IMCD-3 cells derived from murine IMCD were subjected to 60 min of pulsatile shear stress. Nitrite production (2,3-diaminonaphthalene fluorometric assay) increased 12-, 16-, and 23-fold at 3.3, 10, and 30 dyn/cm(2), respectively, compared with static control cultures. Preincubation with the non-isoform-specific NO synthase inhibitor nitro-L-arginine methyl ester reduced nitrite production by 83% in response to 30 dyn/cm(2). Western blotting and immunofluorescence analysis of static IMCD-3 cell cultures revealed the expression of all three NO synthase isoforms (NOS-1 or neuronal NOS, NOS-2 or inducible NOS, and NOS-3 or endothelial NOS) in IMCD-3 cultures. These results indicate that NO production is modulated by shear stress in IMCD-3 cells and that fluid shear stress within the renal tubular system may play a role in the regulation of sodium and water excretion by control of NO production in the IMCD.