To determine whether asbestos inhalation induces the formation of reactive nitrogen species, three groups of rats were exposed intermittently over 2 wk to either filtered room air (sham-exposed) or to chrysotile or crocidolite asbestos fibers. The rats were killed at 1 or 6 wk after exposure. At 1 wk, significantly greater numbers of alveolar and pleural macrophages from asbestos-exposed rats than from sham-exposed rats demonstrated inducible nitric oxide synthase protein immunoreactivity. Alveolar macrophages from asbestos-exposed rats also generated significantly greater nitrite formation than did macrophages from sham-exposed rats. Strong immunoreactivity for nitrotyrosine, a marker of peroxynitrite formation, was evident in lungs from chrysotile- and crocidolite-exposed rats at 1 and 6 wk. Staining was most evident at alveolar duct bifurcations and within bronchiolar epithelium, alveolar macrophages, and the visceral and parietal pleural mesothelium. Lungs from sham-exposed rats demonstrated minimal immunoreactivity for nitrotyrosine. Significantly greater quantities of nitrotyrosine were detected by ELISA in lung extracts from asbestos-exposed rats than from sham-exposed rats. These findings suggest that asbestos inhalation can induce inducible nitric oxide synthase activation and peroxynitrite formation in vivo, and provide evidence of a possible alternative mechanism of asbestos-induced injury to that thought to be induced by Fenton reactions.