Nitric oxide-releasing aspirin (NO-ASA) is emerging as a potentially important chemopreventive agent against colon cancer. We examined in HT-29 human colon adenocarcinoma cells the effect of NO-ASA on the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (NOS2), an enzyme implicated in colon carcinogenesis. NO-ASA inhibited in a time- and concentration-dependent manner the expression of NOS2 up to 70% compared to control (IC50 for this effect = 46 microM). NO-ASA also decreased the corresponding steady-state mRNA levels and this reduction preceded the reduction of protein levels by at least 6 h. NO-ASA also reduced the enzymatic activity of NOS2, as determined by a direct enzyme assay (maximal reduction = 80%) and by determining the accumulation of NO in the culture medium (IC50 for this effect = 36 microM). These effects of NO-ASA on NOS2 were paralleled by inhibition in cell growth (IC50 = 8.5 microM). These findings indicate that NO-ASA profoundly inhibits both the expression and enzymatic activity of NOS2 and suggest that these effects may represent an important mechanism for the colon cancer chemopreventive effect of NO-ASA.