NADPH diaphorase (NADPH dehydrogenase; EC 126.96.36.199) histochemistry labels neurons that synthesize the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO). In retina, it has been demonstrated that NO can affect the metabolism of cGMP in rod photoreceptors. To investigate potential involvement of NO in cone photoreceptor activity, we utilized NADPH diaphorase histochemistry to study the cone-dominated retina of the tree shrew (Tupaia belangeri). Unexpectedly, our results revealed different NADPH diaphorase activity in the cellular subcompartments of the spectral classes of cone photoreceptors. Although all cones showed intense labeling of inner segment ellipsoids, the short-wavelength-sensitive (SWS or "blue-sensitive") cones and the rods displayed intense staining of the myoid inner segment subcompartment as well. Furthermore, only SWS cones and rods displayed surface labeling of their nuclei. These findings indicate a manner in which SWS cones differ biochemically from other cone types and in which they are more similar to rods. Such differences may underlie some of the unusual functional properties of the SWS cone system, which have been attributed to postreceptoral processes.