Six strains of Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus plantarum were investigated for nitric oxide (NO) production. First, the potential presence of NO synthase was examined. None of the strains of L. fermentum and L. plantarum examined produced NO from L-arginine under aerobic conditions. Interestingly, all L. fermentum strains expressed strong L-arginine deiminase activity. All L. fermentum strains produced NO in MRS broth, but the NO was found to be chemically derived from nitrite, which was produced by L. fermentum from nitrate present in the medium. Indeed all L. fermentum strains express nitrate reductase under anaerobic conditions. Moreover, one strain, L. fermentum LF1, had nitrate reductase activity under aerobic conditions. It was also found that L. fermentum strains JCM1173 and LF1 possessed ammonifying nitrite reductase. The latter strain also had denitrifying nitrite reductase activity at neutral pH under both anaerobic and aerobic conditions. The LF1 strain is thus capable of biochemically converting nitrate to NO. NO and nitrite produced from nitrate by lactobacilli may constitute a potential antimicrobial mechanism. studied in a rat acute liver injury model (Adawi et al. 1997). The results indicate that Lactobacillus plantarum DSM 9842 may possess NOS (Adawi et al. 1997). However, NO production from L-arginine has not been investigated in pure cultures of L. plantarum. According to the results of a 15N enrichment experiment, traces of (NO2-+NO3-)-N (total oxidised nitrogen: TON), which seemed to be formed by the resting cells of Lactobacillus fermentum IFO3956, appeared to be derived from L-arginine (Morita et al. 1997). Therefore, it was suggested that L. fermentum may possess a NOS. However, NO produced from L-arginine was not directly measured and a NOS inhibitor test was not performed by Morita et al. (1997). It is known that L-arginine deiminase (ADI) in bacteria may convert L-arginine to NH4+ (Cunin et al. 1986), which may be further oxidised to TON via nitrification by bacteria. Therefore, 15N enrichment experiments could not definitely conclude that L. fermentum possess NOS to convert L-arginine directly to NO. In this study, six Lactobacillus strains belonging to L. plantarum and L. fermentum were measured for NO production in MRS broth. The metabolism of nitrate and L-arginine by the Lactobacillus cell suspensions was also studied. The possibility that NO and nitrite production by lactobacilli may be a potential probiotic trait is also discussed.