Nitric oxide generated by the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) may contribute to the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis (MS). In this report, we studied postmortem tissues of MS patients for the expression of iNOS by in situ hybridization and immunocytochemistry. Immunocytochemistry for nitrotyrosine, a putative footprint for peroxynitrite formation was also performed. In acute MS lesions, intense reactivity for iNOS mRNA and protein was detected in reactive astrocytes throughout the lesion and in adjacent normal appearing white matter. Staining of macrophages, inflammatory cell infiltrates, and endothelial cells was variable from case to case, but generally detected only in acute lesions. In chronic MS lesions reactive astrocytes at the lesion edge were positive for iNOS whereas the lesion center was nonreactive. Normal appearing white matter demonstrated little reactivity, as did tissues from noninflamed control brains. Staining for nitrotyrosine was also detected in acute but not chronic MS lesions, and displayed a diffuse parenchymal, membranous, and perivascular pattern of immunoreactivity. These results support the conclusion that iNOS is induced in multiple cell types in MS lesions and that astrocyte-derived nitric oxide could be important in orchestrating inflammatory responses in MS, particularly at the blood-brain barrier.