The down-regulation of cytochrome P450 during host defence involves one or more mediators of unknown source and identity. Owing to striking similarities in the features that are involved in the production of NO and the features involved in the down-regulation of cytochrome P450 we hypothesized that NO could be a mediator in the interferon-evoked loss of cytochrome P450. In these experiments the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor L-nitroarginine (5 mg/kg) failed to protect mice from the down-regulation of cytochrome P450, ethoxyresorufin dealkylase and para-nitrophenol hydroxylase in the liver following administration of the interferon inducer polyinosinic.polycytidylic acid. A higher dose of L-nitroarginine (30 mg/kg) given every 12 h for 3 days also did not protect against cytochrome P450 losses. In addition, no down-regulation of the enzyme was observed in animals treated with multiple doses of the NO-generating drugs glyceryl trinitrate (16 and 80 mg/kg given every 4 h for 16 h) and nitroprusside (20 and 100 mg/kg given every 4 h for 16 h). These results indicate that the down-regulation of cytochrome P450 by interferon or its inducers probably does not involve NO as a required intermediary.