Nitric oxide (NO) has been shown to regulate T cell functions under physiological conditions, but overproduction of NO may contribute to T lymphocyte dysfunction. NO-dependent tissue injury has been implicated in a variety of rheumatic diseases, including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Several studies reported increased endogenous NO synthesis in both SLE and RA, and recent evidence suggests that NO contributes to T cell dysfunction in both autoimmune diseases. The depletion of intracellular glutathione may be a key factor predisposing patients with SLE to mitochondrial dysfunction, characterized by mitochondrial hyperpolarization, ATP depletion and predisposition to death by necrosis. Thus, changes in glutathione metabolism may influence the effect of increased NO production in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity.