Nitric oxide (NO) was initially described as a physiological mediator of endothelial cell relaxation, an important role in hypotension. NO is an intercellular messenger that has been recognized as one of the most versatile players in the immune system. Cells of the innate immune system--macrophages, neutrophils and natural killer cells--use pattern recognition receptors to recognize the molecular patterns associated with pathogens. Activated macrophages then inhibit pathogen replication by releasing a variety of effector molecules, including NO. In addition to macrophages, a large number of other immune-system cells produce and respond to NO. Thus, NO is important as a toxic defense molecule against infectious organisms. It also regulates the functional activity, growth and death of many immune and inflammatory cell types including macrophages, T lymphocytes, antigen-presenting cells, mast cells, neutrophils and natural killer cells. However, the role of NO in nonspecific and specific immunity in vivo and in immunologically mediated diseases and inflammation is poorly understood. This Minireview will discuss the role of NO in immune response and inflammation, and its mechanisms of action in these processes.