Exhaled nitric oxide (NO) is elevated in untreated patients with asthma but not in patients treated with inhaled glucocorticoids. This may reflect an inhibitory effect of glucocorticoids on the induction of the enzyme NO synthase in the respiratory tract. We have now studied the effect of an inhaled glucocorticoid (budesonide 800 micrograms twice daily via a dry powder delivery system for 3 wk) on exhaled NO in 11 patients with mild asthma in a double-blind crossover randomized-order placebo-controlled study. Exhaled NO was reduced from a baseline value of 203 +/- 29 parts per billion (ppb) to 120 +/- 26 ppb after 3 wk of treatment (p < 0.01), whereas there was no change after a matched placebo (169 +/- 20 at baseline compared with 184 +/- 16 ppb after 3 wk). A significant and progressive fall in exhaled NO was found from 1 to 3 wk. There was no significant change in FEV1 after inhaled steroids (although mean FEV1 was 92% predicted normal at baseline), although there was a reduction in airway responsiveness to methacholine (approximately 2.5 doubling dilutions). These results add further support to the view that the elevated levels of exhaled NO in asthma may derive from induction of an inducible isoform of NO synthase and indicate that exhaled NO may be a useful way of monitoring the anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids and other anti-inflammatory treatments in asthma.