The steps required for new vessel growth are biologically complex and require coordinate regulation of contributing components, including modifications of cell--cell interactions, proliferation and migration of endothelial cells and matrix degradation. The observation that in vivo angiogenesis is accompanied by vasodilation, that many angiogenesis effectors possess vasodilating properties and that tumor vasculature is in a persistent state of vasodilation, support the existence of a molecular/biochemical link between vasodilation and angiogenesis. Several pieces of evidence converge in the indication of a role for nitric oxide (NO), the factor responsible for vasodilation, in physiological and pathological angiogenesis. Data originated in different labs indicate that NO can act both as an 'actor' of angiogenesis and as a 'director of angiogenesis', both functions being equally expressed during physiological and pathological processes. NO significantly contributes to the prosurvival/proangiogenic program of capillary endothelium by triggering and transducing cell growth and differentiation via endothelial-constitutive NO synthase (ec-NOS) activation, cyclic GMP (cGMP) elevation, mitogen activated kinase (MAPK) activation and fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) expression. Re-establishment of a balanced NO production in the central nervous system results in a reduction of cell damage during inflammatory and vascular diseases. Elevation of NOS activity in correlation with angiogenesis and tumor progression has been extensively reported in experimental and human tumors. In the brain, tumor expansion and edema formation are sensitive to NOS inhibition. On this basis, the nitric oxide pathway appears to be a promising target for consideration in pro- and anti-angiogenic therapeutic strategies. The use of NOS inhibitors seems appropriate to reduce edema, block angiogenesis and facilitate antitumor drug delivery.