This study was planned to observe the effects of nitric oxide synthesis on the antioxidative defense enzymes and pancreatic tissue histology in caerulein-induced acute pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis was induced by intraperitoneal injections of 50 mu g/kg caerulein, L-arginine used for NO induction and N-omega-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) used for NO inhibition. In the caerulein group acinar cell degeneration, interstitial inflammation, oedema and haemorrhage were detected. Pancreatic damage scores were decreased with both NO induction and inhibition (p<0.05). MDA, GSH-Px, CAT, GSH and SOD activities were significantly changed in the caerulein group and indicated increased oxidative stress. Both NO induction and inhibition decreased this oxidative stress. It is concluded that both nitric oxide induction and inhibition ameliorated caerulein-induced acute pancreatitis. The findings indicate that a certain amount of NO production has beneficial effects in experimental acute pancreatitis, but uncontrolled over-production of NO may be detrimental.