We examined the effect of carnosine (beta-alanyl-histidine) on nitric oxide (NO) production and endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) activation in endothelial F-2 cells. Carnosine enhanced NO production in a dose-dependent manner, and the stimulatory effect of carnosine was observed at concentrations exceeding 5 mM. The carnosine-stimulated NO production was inhibited by N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, but not by N(G)-nitro-D-arginine methyl ester. In contrast, beta-alanine, histidine (carnosine components) and anserine (N-methyl carnosine) failed to increase NO production. Carnosine had no effect on NO production for the initial 5 min, but thereafter resulted in a gradual increase in NO production up to 15 min. Carnosine did not induce phosphorylation of eNOS at Ser1177. The carnosine-induced increase in NO production was observed even when extracellular Ca2+ was depleted by ethylene glycol bis(2-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N'-N'-tetraacetic acid however, the effect was abolished upon depletion of intracellular Ca2+ by BAPTA. After F-2 cells were incubated with carnosine for 4 min, intracellular Ca2+ concentration gradually increased. The carnosine-induced increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration occurred even in the absence of extracellular Ca2+. These results indicate that carnosine facilitates NO production in endothelial F-2 cells. It is also suggested that eNOS is activated by Ca2+, which might be released from intracellular Ca2+ stores in response to carnosine.