The specificity of 4-amino-5-methylamino-2',7'-difluorofluorescein (DAF-FM) for nitric oxide was evaluated in in vitro systems. The probe was found fairly specific for nitric oxide. Potential sources of artifacts include the autoxidation of DAF-FM, potentiated by light, and its oxidation by sources of superoxide and peroxyl radicals, leading to fluorescence spectra indistinguishable from those of the nitric oxide adduct. Although DAF-FM reacts with peroxynitrite, this reaction seems to be of secondary importance under quasi-physiological conditions. On the other hand, a simultaneous presence of a nitric oxide source and a superoxide or hydrogen peroxide decreases or increases the fluorescence of DAF-FM, respectively, resulting in biased estimates of nitric oxide production.