Nitric oxide (NO) is generated by a family of isoenzymes (NO synthases) expressed in a wide range of mammalian cells. We have recently reported NO synthase expression in human gynaecological cancers. In this study we have assessed the activity and distribution of NO synthase in a series of human breast tumours and in normal breast tissue. Calcium-dependent (constitutive) and -independent (inducible) NO synthase activity, as well as NO biosynthesis, was high in invasive tumours compared with benign or normal tissue. Furthermore, for invasive ductal carcinomas, NO biosynthesis was significantly greater for grade III compared with grade II tumours. Immunohistochemical investigations revealed immunolabelling with a monoclonal antibody to murine inducible NO synthase predominantly within tumour-associated macrophages. Immunolabelling with a polyclonal antiserum raised against rat brain NO synthase was also observed in vascular endothelial and myoepithelial cells. Thus NO synthase is expressed in human breast tumours, where its presence correlates with tumour grade.