Products of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) are known to be involved in lung injury following intrapulmonary deposition of immunoglobulin G immune complexes (IgG-ICx). In the current studies rat alveolar macrophages stimulated in vitro with murine interferon gamma (IFN-gamma), tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 1 alpha, (IL-1 alpha), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), or IgG-ICx immunostained for iNOS and produced nitrite/nitrate- (NO2-/NO3-) in a dose- and time-dependent manner requiring availability of L-arginine. Under the same conditions, IL-4 and IL-10 reduced NO2-/NO3- generation. Type II alveolar epithelial cells, which were obtained from normal rat lungs and stimulated in vitro with IgG-ICx, LPS, or IFN-gamma, also immunostained for iNOS and generated NO2-/NO3-. Special techniques of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) were used to retrieve alveolar macrophages and type II alveolar epithelial cells. Under these conditions, intrapulmonary deposition of LPS yielded BAL fluids containing increased amounts of NO2-/NO3- and macrophages that spontaneously released NO2-/NO3- and stained for iNOS. After intrapulmonary deposition of IgG both macrophages as well as type II cells (retrieved by BAL) spontaneously produced NO2-/NO3- and both cell types immunostained for iNOS (approximately 20% of all type II cells and 35% of all alveolar macrophages). Using dual fluorescence staining for cell identification, frozen sections of lung tissue after IgG immune complex deposition revealed iNOS in both alveolar macrophages and type II cells. Finally, in the immune complex model of alveolitis, the appearance of iNOS in macrophages as well as macrophage production in vitro of NO2-/NO3- was dependent on the in vivo availability of tumor necrosis factor alpha, IL-1, and IFN-gamma. These studies suggest a dual cell source for nitric oxide in inflamed lungs and the requirements for iNOS of several cytokines.