To explore the possible role of eosinophils in NO-mediated tissue injury, we studied a murine model of allergic asthma. Male A/J mice were sensitized and challenged intranasally with ovalbumin (OVA). Following challenge, the number of eosinophils in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) increased from 0.4% of total cells at baseline (0.02 x 10(4) cells/ml) to 60.2% at 48 h after the challenge (9.34 x 10(4) cells/ml). The rise in eosinophil count was accompanied by a 40.3% increase in total NO(2-) plus NO(3-) (NO(x)) in BALF. This in turn was accompanied by expression of inducible NO synthase (NOS II) in airway epithelial and inflammatory cells, as well as by evidence of staining for 3-nitrotyrosine (3NT) in peribronchial inflammatory cells and at the epithelial surface. Both NO(x) production and 3NT were significantly reduced by pretreatment of the challenged mice with the highly specific NOS II inhibitor N-3-aminomethyl-benzyl-acetamidine-dihydrochloride (1400W), as well as by the nonselective NOS inhibitor N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME). L-NAME and 1400W also reduced the number of BALF eosinophils (37.2% and 61.5%, respectively, as compared with the control value), suggesting that NO production by NOS II contributes to eosinophil recruitment. To further examine the role of eosinophils, we pretreated additional mice with an anti-interleukin (IL)-5 antibody, which reduced BALF eosinophilia following OVA challenge by 90.1%. In concert with the decrease in eosinophils, the anti-IL-5 antibody reduced NO(x) in BALF almost to the baseline value, and decreased the number of 3NT-positive cells in the peribronchial region by 74.4%. Western blot analysis of protein extracted from whole lung confirmed the reduction in tyrosine nitration by anti-IL-5 antibody. These findings indicate that NO and eosinophilic inflammation are closely coupled, and suggest that eosinophils are an important source of tyrosine nitration.