We investigated the effects of aldosterone on nitric oxide (NO) synthesis in vascular smooth muscle cells. We measured the production of nitrite, a stable metabolite of NO, and the expression of inducible NO synthase mRNA and protein in cultured rat vascular smooth muscle cells. Incubation of the cultures with interleukin-1 beta (10 ng/ml) for 24 h caused a significant increase in nitrite generation. The interleukin-1 beta-induced nitrite production by vascular smooth muscle cells was significantly inhibited by aldosterone in a dose (10(-9) approximately 10(-6) M)-dependent manner. Incubation with interleukin-1 beta for 12 approximately 24 h caused inducible NO synthase mRNA expression in vascular smooth muscle cells, whereas aldosterone had a suppressive effect on its expression. Aldosterone also decreased interleukin-1 beta-induced NO synthase protein accumulation. These results indicate that aldosterone inhibits NO synthesis under interleukin-1 beta-stimulated conditions in vascular smooth muscle cells.