NO produced by the inducible NO synthase (NOS2) and prostanoids generated by the cyclooxygenase (COX) isoforms and terminal prostanoid synthases are major components of the host innate immune and inflammatory response. Evidence exists that pharmacological manipulation of one pathway could result in cross-modulation of the other, but the sense, amplitude, and relevance of these interactions are controversial, especially in vivo. Administration of 6 mg/kg LPS to rats i.p. resulted 6 h later in induction of NOS2 and the membrane-associated PGE synthase (mPGES) expression, and decreased constitutive COX (COX-1) expression. Low level inducible COX (COX-2) mRNA with absent COX-2 protein expression was observed. The NOS2 inhibitor aminoguanidine (50 and 100 mg/kg i.p.) dose dependently decreased both NO and prostanoid production. The LPS-induced increase in PGE2 concentration was mediated by NOS2-derived NO-dependent activation of COX- I pathway and by induction of mPGES. Despite absent COX-2 protein, SC-236, a putative COX-2-specific inhibitor, decreased mPGES RNA expression and PGE2 concentration. Ketoprofen, a nonspecific COX inhibitor, and SC-236 had no effect on the NOS2 pathway. Our results suggest that in a model of systemic inflammation characterized by the absence of COX-2 protein expression, NOS2.derived NO activates COX-1 pathway, and inhibitors of COX isoforms have no effect on NOS2 or NOS3 (endothelial NOS) pathways. These results could explain, at least in part, the deleterious effects of NOS2 inhibitors in some experimental and clinical settings, and could imply that there is a major conceptual limitation to the use of NOS2 inhibitors during systemic inflammation.