An emergent approach to the detection of nitric oxide (NO) in tissues relies on the use of fluorescence probes that are activated by products of NO autoxidation. Here we explore the performance of the widely used NO probe 4,5-diaminofluorescein diacetate (DAF-2 DA) for the localization of sources of NO in rat aortic tissue, either from endogenous NO synthesis or from chemically or photolytically released NO from targets of nitrosation/nitrosylation. Of importance toward understanding the performance of this probe in tissues is the finding that, with incubation conditions commonly used in the literature (10 microM DAF-2 DA), intracellular DAF-2 accumulates to concentrations that approach the millimolar range. Whereas such high probe concentrations do not interfere with NO release or signaling, they help to clarify why DAF-2 nitrosation is possible in the presence of endogenous nitrosation scavengers (e.g., ascorbate and glutathione). The gain attained with such elevated concentrations is, however, mitigated by associated high levels of background autofluorescence from the probe. This, together with tissue autofluorescence, limits the sensitivity of the probe to low-micromolar levels of accumulated DAF-2 triazole (DAF-2 T), the activated form of the probe, which is higher than the concentrations of most endogenous nitrosation/nitrosylation products found in tissues. We further show that the compartmentalization of DAF-2 around elastic fibers further limits its potential to characterize the site of NO production at the subcellular level. Moreover, we find that reaction of DAF-2 with HgCl(2) and other commonly employed reagents is associated with spectral changes that may be misinterpreted as NO signals. Finally, UV illumination can lead to high levels of nitrosating species that interfere with NO detection from enzymatic sources. These findings indicate that while DAF-2 may still represent an important tool for the localization of NO synthesis, provided important pitfalls and limitations are taken into consideration, it is not suited for the detection of basally generated nitrosation/nitrosylation products.