RON (recepteur d'origine nantais) is a receptor tyrosine kinase expressed in murine peritoneal resident macrophages and activated by macrophage-stimulating protein (MSP). The objectives of this investigation were to study the RON expression in exudate macrophages and the mechanisms by which RON inhibits inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression induced by LPS and IFN-gamma. We found that mouse peritoneal resident and Con A-elicited macrophages collected on day 3 or day 5 express RON. Acute exudate macrophages collected on day 1 did not express RON. Activation of RON inhibited LPS- and IFN-gamma-induced macrophage nitric oxide production and iNOS mRNA accumulation. Similar inhibition was observed also in Raw264.7 macrophage cell lines transfected with human RON cDNA. In these cells, MSP induced RON phosphorylation concomitant with reduced iNOS mRNA expression and protein synthesis. Further, we show that activated RON inhibited the iNOS gene transcription activity as assessed by chloramphenicol acetyltransferase activity in Raw264.7 cells expressing RON. Wortmannin, a specific inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol-3 (PI-3) kinase, prevented the inhibitory effect of RON on the iNOS gene promoter activity and on the nitric oxide production induced by LPS and IFN-gamma. These effects were confirmed further by introducing a dominant-inhibitory PI-3 kinase p85 subunit in RON-expressing Raw264.7 cells. Taken together, our results suggest that RON is expressed in peritoneal macrophages at later stages of inflammation. Activation of RON by MSP in mature exudate macrophages inhibits LPS- and IFN-gamma-induced iNOS synthesis. PI-3 kinase is an important effector molecule required for RON-mediated inhibition of iNOS expression in macrophages.