The immunoreactivity to the free radical-related enzymes, nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and superoxide dismutase (SOD), was examined in brain tissue in progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). To determine the relationship between the immunoexpression of these enzymes and tau-positive, argyrophilic cytoplasmic inclusions, which are constantly present in PSP brains, double-label immunohistochemistry was applied. We demonstrated for the first time that strong inducible NOS-like immunoreactivity (iNOS-ir) was detected in tau-positive astrocytes that bore tufts of abnormal fibers (TAF), but not in oligodendrocytes containing argyrophilic/tau-positive coiled bodies nor in microglia. No brain NOS-ir was detected in neurons with neurofibrillary tangles. MnSOD-ir was also detected in tau-positive astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. Nitrotyrosine-ir of variable intensity was observed in astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and neurons. Our results indicate: (1) that TAF-bearing astrocytes may be a major source of excessive NO in PSP brains; (2) that after the induction of iNOS by unknown stimulating factors, TAF-bearing astrocytes produce an excessive amount of NO that exceeds the detoxification capability of SOD; and (3) that peroxynitrite and excessive NO, both cytotoxic, may be present in astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and neurons. Although the precise relationship between NO production and neuronal cell death in PSP remained uncertain, based on the specificity of TAF for PSP brains, our results indicated a possible mechanism of NO-mediated cytotoxicity that may contribute to the neuronal and glial cell damage followed by abnormal tau accumulation in this disease.