We tested the hypothesis that the constitutive activity of the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (NOS2) serves to protect cells against numerous endogenous stresses. To accomplish this, we treated HepG2 cell lines that were individually transfected with 13 different promoter/response element (RE) chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (CAT) reporter constructs, with a highly selective NOS2 inhibitor, 1400W [N-(3-(aminomethyl)benzyl) acetamidine)]. HepG2 cells were incubated for 6 h with 0, 1, 10, 50, 100, and 200 microM 1400W, and the activation of the promoter/RE CAT reporter constructs was simultaneously determined. The highest fold inductions occurred at 200 microM 1400W, a concentration that had no effect on overall cell viability, as determined by the MTT assay. Twelve of the 13 promoter/RE CAT reporter constructs were significantly activated by 200 microM 1400W. These results indicate the extensive protective role of constitutive NOS2 against genotoxic, oxidative, and endoplasmic reticulum stresses. The mechanism of this protection may involve the complexing of iron by nitric oxide (NO) to reduce hydroxyl radical formation, NO inhibition of electron transport and the generation of reactive oxygen species within mitochondria, NO inhibition of cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase, and cytochrome P450 enzyme activity, and the scavenging of superoxide anions by NO to form peroxynitrite.