1. Endotoxin induces a shock-like syndrome with increased nitric oxide synthesis. To clarify the cellular source of NO in endotoxic shock we used immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization to localize inducible NO synthase in rats given lipopolysaccharide or Corynebacterium parvum and lipopolysaccharide. Immunohistochemistry was carried out with an antibody raised against a synthetic peptide of mouse macrophage NO synthase. In situ hybridization was performed with 35S-labelled oligonucleotide probes corresponding to cDNA sequences common to mouse macrophage inducible NO synthase and rat vascular smooth inducible NO synthase. Monocytes and macrophages were identified by immunohistochemistry with the mouse monoclonal antibody ED1. 2. After lipopolysaccharide alone, the major site of NO synthase induction was monocytes and macrophages in multiple organs, principally liver and spleen. Bronchial, bile duct, intestinal and bladder epithelium and some hepatocytes also expressed inducible NO synthase. Expression peaked at 5 h and had returned to normal by 12 h except in spleen. 3. After priming with C. parvum, lipopolysaccharide led to a similar distribution of inducible NO synthase as lipopolysaccharide alone, but in addition there was more prominent hepatocyte staining, staining in macrophage granulomas in the liver and inducible NO synthase was present in some endothelial cells in the aorta. 4. These findings provide a direct demonstration of the cellular localization of inducible NO synthase after lipopolysaccharide.