Nitrate biosynthesis is a known mammalian process, and macrophages from mice treated with Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide (LPS) have been shown to be capable of nitrate synthesis. Cell culture studies showed that macrophages produce nitrite as well as nitrate. We report here N-nitrosamine formation by stimulated macrophages. Experiments were carried out with the macrophage cell lines, J774.1, WEHI-3 and RAW 264. Macrophages were cultured in Dulbecco's modified Eagle's medium (pH 7.5) supplemented with calf serum (10%). The concentration of nitrate in the supernatant was measured. N-nitrosamines were extracted with dichloromethane and the extracts were analysed by gas chromatography-thermal energy analysis. When J774.1 (1.5 X 10(6) cells/ml) were incubated with LPS (10 micrograms/ml) and morpholine (15 mM) for 72 h at 37 degrees C, N-nitrosomorpholine (NMOR) was produced (0.8 microM). The amount of nitrite produced was 50 microM. RAW 264 and WEHI-3 also produced NMOR; LPS was required for nitrite and NMOR formation. gamma-Interferon (IFN) promoted both NMOR (2.5 microM) and nitrite (70 microM) formation. Nitrite (150 microM) incubated with morpholine and the medium did not form NMOR. Kinetics of LPS-induced nitrite and NMOR formation in J774.1 showed that the rate of NMOR formation was highest in the middle incubation period (24-36 h), although the nitrite concentration was highest in the latter incubation period (48-60 h). Our results showed that macrophages may be capable of nitrosamine formation under physiological conditions that do not normally permit this reaction.