Nitric oxide (NO) is produced at different sites in the human airways and may have several physiological effects. Orally-produced NO seems to contribute to the levels found in exhaled air. Autoinhalation of nasal NO increases oxygenation and reduces pulmonary artery pressure in humans. The aim of this study was to measure the concentration and output of NO during nasal, oral and tracheal controlled exhalation and inhalation. Ten tracheotomized patients and seven healthy subjects were studied. The mean+/-SEM fraction of exhaled NO from the nose, mouth and trachea was 56+/-8, 14+/-4 and 6+/-1 parts per billion (ppb), respectively. During single-breath nasal, oral and tracheal inhalation the fraction of inhaled NO was 64+/-14, 11+/-3 and 4+/-1, respectively. There was a marked flow dependency on nasal NO output in the healthy subjects, which was four-fold greater at the higher flow rates, during inhalation when compared to exhalation. There is a substantial contribution of nasal and oral nitric oxide during both inhalation and exhalation. Nasal nitric oxide output is markedly higher during inhalation, reaching levels similar to those that are found to have clinical effects in the trachea. These findings have implications for the measurement of nitric oxide in exhaled air and the physiological effects of autoinhaled endogenous nitric oxide.