We investigated the effects of targeted deletion of the inducible NO synthase (iNOS) gene on the formation of prostaglandins in vivo and ex vivo. Peritoneal macrophages were obtained from control and iNOS-deficient mice, and prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) was quantified after stimulation with gamma-interferon and lipopolysaccharide to induce COX-2. Total nitrate and nitrite production was completely abolished in cells from iNOS-deficient animals compared with control cells. PGE(2) formation by cells from iNOS-deficient animals was decreased compared with cells from control animals 80% at 12 h (0.85 +/- 0.90 ng/10(6) cells versus 15.4 +/- 2.1 ng/10(6) cells, p < 0.01) and 74% at 24 h (9.4 +/- 4.3 ng/10(6) cells versus 36.8 +/- 4.1 ng/10(6) cells, p < 0.01). COX-2 protein expression was not significantly different in cells from control or knockout animals. Levels of PGE(2) in the urine of iNOS-deficient mice were decreased 78% (0.24 +/- 0.14 ng/mg of creatinine versus 1.09 +/- 0.66 ng/mg of creatinine, p < 0.01) compared with control animals. In addition, the levels of urinary F(2)-isoprostanes, an index of endogenous oxidant stress, were significantly decreased in iNOS-deficient animals. In contrast, the levels of thromboxane B(2) derived from platelets allowed to aggregate ex vivo were significantly increased in iNOS-deficient mice compared with wild-type mice. These studies support the hypothesis that NO and/or NO-derived species modulate cyclooxygenase activity and eicosanoid production in vivo.