Endotoxin-induced uveitis (EIU) is an animal model of acute ocular inflammation. Cytokines, chemokines, and nitric oxide (NO) have been reported to play important roles. We have determined whether heme oxygenase (HO)-1, a heat shock protein, can suppress EIU. EIU was induced by a footpad injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in male Lewis rats. Hemin, an inducer of HO-1, was injected intraperitoneally 1 hr prior to the LPS injection. HO-1 and HO-2 expression in the iris-ciliary body (ICB) was studied by real time PCR and Western blot analysis. The number of infiltrating cells and the protein concentration in the aqueous humor (AqH) were evaluated by microscopy and by protein assay. The expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), interleukin (IL)-6, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and IL-1beta mRNA was determined by real time PCR. The concentration of nitrate plus nitrite, and levels of IL-6 and TNF-alpha in the AqH were also evaluated by Griess reagents and by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, respectively. The expression of HO-1 mRNA and protein, induced by LPS, was enhanced significantly by pre-injection of hemin (P<0.001). HO-2 was constitutively present in the ICB and was not up-regulated by LPS or by hemin. The number of infiltrating cells and the concentration of protein in the AqH was significantly elevated by LPS injection, and hemin significantly reduced the number of cells and the protein concentration (P<0.0001). The expression of iNOS and IL-6 mRNA and protein were down-regulated by hemin (P<0.001). Hemin is effective in inducing HO-1 and in reducing the ocular inflammation induced by LPS probably by down-regulating NO and pro-inflammatory cytokine expression.