The effect of staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB)-elicited inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in mouse endothelial cells was investigated. Results showed that SEB stimulated the same level of NO production in gamma interferon (IFN-gamma)-primed cells as did trichloroacetic acid-extracted lipopolysaccharide. The kinetics of induced NO production and expression of mRNA for iNOS differed markedly in endothelial and macrophage cells. Induced endothelial nitrite production was transient and was 15 to 20% of that generated by macrophage cells; mRNA levels peaked by 2 h and then steadily declined, whereas macrophage message levels continually increased. The ability of endothelial cells to produce SEB-induced NO depended on priming with IFN-gamma, although detectable mRNA could be elicited by SEB alone. Induction of endothelial iNOS mRNA was inhibited by cycloheximide, which indicated a requirement for de novo protein synthesis. Niacinamide and interleukin-10 significantly reduced SEB-induced endothelial NO production. Both are reported to affect IFN-gamma-induced class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) expression on antigen-presenting cells. Niacinamide reduced iNOS mRNA levels and markedly reduced IFN-gamma induction of endothelial class II MHC surface antigen. Interleukin-10 did not consistently reduce iNOS mRNA expression and had no effect on IFN-gamma induction of endothelial class II MHC surface antigen. These results suggest that SEB interacts with IFN-gamma-primed endothelial cells to elicit induced NO and that this induction can be effectively modulated at the receptor or transcriptional level.