While considerable progress has been made in elucidating nitric oxide (NO) regulatory mechanisms in the later stages of gestation, much less is known about its synthesis and role during embryo implantation. Thus, to evaluate the participation of the trophoblast in the production of NO during this phase, this study focused on NADPH-diaphorase activity and the distribution of NO synthase isoforms (NOS) using immunohistochemistry in pre- and postimplantation mouse embryos in situ and in vitro, as well as on NO production itself, measured as total nitrite, in trophoblast culture supernatants (Griess reaction). No NADPH-diaphorase activity was found in preimplanting embryos except after culturing for at least 48 h, when a few trophoblastic giant cells were positive. Conversely, postimplantation trophoblast cells either lodged into the implantation chamber (in situ) or after culturing (in vitro) showed intense NADPH-diaphorase activity. Also in the postimplantation trophoblast, the endothelial and inducible NOS (eNOS and iNOS) isoforms were immunodetected, under both in situ and in vitro conditions, although in different patterns. Extracts of ectoplacental cone also revealed bands of 135 and 130 kDa on SDS-PAGE that reacted with anti-eNOS and anti-iNOS, respectively, on Western blot. Analysis of the culture supernatant demonstrated that the nitrite concentration was 1) proportional to the number of cultured trophoblast cells, 2) almost completely abolished in the presence of N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, and 3) increased 2-fold in cultures stimulated with gamma-interferon. These results strongly suggest the production of NO from constitutive and inducible isoforms of NOS by the implanting mouse trophoblast. They also emphasize the possibility of the participation of these cells in vasodilatation and angiogenesis, and in cytotoxic mechanisms involved in the intense phagocytosis of injured maternal cells, which occur during the implantation process.