The effect of nitric oxide (NO) on the luminol-dependent chemiluminescence (LCL) response of rat polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNLs) was analyzed by using sodium nitroprusside (SNP), a NO donor, and L-arginine (L-arg), a NO precursor. A significant reduction in the LCL intensity was observed in presence of SNP (100 mumol/L) or L-arg (5 or 10 mmol/L) in arachidonic acid (AA) phorbol ester (PMA) and formyl- methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine stimulated PMNLs. However, opsonized zymosan-induced LCL was not attenuated significantly. Reduction in hydroxyl radical and superoxide generation was also observed in SNP- or L-arg-pretreated cells. D-Arg (10 mmol/L) pretreatment did not inhibit PMNLs' LCL response. Furthermore, methylene blue (5 mumol/L) and L-NG- mono methyl-L-arginine (100 or 300 mumol/L) significantly attenuated the LCL response, as induced by various agonists. Cyclic GMP did not alter the reactive oxygen species generation from rat PMNLs. In addition, AA-induced release of myeloperoxidase, a marker of azurophilic granules, was found to be enhanced in L-arg- (10 mmol/L) pretreated PMNLs. The results suggest that NO inhibits free radical generation from rat PMNLs.