In experimental epilepsy studies, nitric oxide was found to act as both proconvulsant and anticonvulsant. The objective. of this study was to investigate the effects of valproic acid and carbamazepine on serum levels of nitrite and nitrate, which are the metabolites of nitric oxide. To achieve this goal, serum nitrite and nitrate levels were determined in active epileptic 34 children using valproic acid and 23 children using carbamazepine and in non-active epileptic 38 children (control group) not using any antiepileptic drug. In the valproic acid group serum nitrite and nitrate levels were 2.66 +/- 2.11 mumol/l and 69.35 +/- 23.20 mumol/l, 1.89 +/- 1.01 mumol/l and 49.39 +/- 10.61 mumol/l in the carbamazepine group, and 1.22 +/- 0.55 mumol/l, 29.53 +/- 10.05 mumol in the control group, respectively. Nitrite and nitrate levels were significantly high in both valproic acid and carbamazepine groups compared to the control group (P < 0.01). When valproic acid and carbamazepine groups were compared to each other, level of nitrate was found statistically higher in the valproic acid group in relation to the carbamazepine group (P < 0.01), however, there was no statistically significant difference in the levels of nitrite (P > 0.05). No relation could be found between serum drug levels and nitrite and nitrate levels. According to these results, it can be suggested that valproic acid and carbamazepine might have antiepileptic effects through nitric oxide. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All fights reserved.