We have previously shown that cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is localized to the cortical thick ascending limb of the loop of Henle (cTALH)/macula densa of the rat kidney, and expression increases in response to low-salt diet and/or angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition. Because of the localization of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) to macula densa and surrounding cTALH, the present study investigated the role of nitric oxide (NO) in the regulation of COX-2 expression. For in vivo studies, rats were fed a normal diet, low-salt diet or low-salt diet combined with the ACE inhibitor captopril. In each group, one-half of them were treated with the nNOS inhibitors 7-nitroinidazole (7-NI) or S-methyl-thiocitrulline. Both of these NOS inhibitors inhibited increases in COX-2 mRNA and immunoreactive protein in response to low salt and low salt+captopril. For in vitro studies, COX-2 expression was studied in primary cultures of rabbit cTALH cells immunodisssected with Tamm-Horsfall antibody. Basal COX-2 immunoreactivity expression was stimulated by S-nitroso-N-acetyl-penicillamine (SNAP), an NO donor, and intracellular cGMP concentration. The cultured cells expressed immunoreactive nNOS, and 7-NI inhibited basal COX-2 immunoreactivity expression, which could be partially overcome by cGMP. In summary, these studies indicate that NO is a mediator of increased renal cortical COX-2 expression seen in volume depletion and suggest important interactions between the NO and COX-2 systems in the regulation of arteriolar tone and the renin-angiotensin system by the macula densa.