Glucocorticoids inhibit inducible-type NO synthase activity in a variety of cell types. We report here that proteins recovered from the medium of dexamethasone-treated J774 macrophages (1, 10, 100 microg/ml) inhibited lipopolysaccharide-stimulated nitrite generation by 10.0 +/- 3.0%, 32.3 +/- 5.3% and 55.0 +/- 6.0%, respectively, and inducible NO synthase mRNA expression in these cells. Immunoblotting analysis of crude and partially purified glucocorticoid-induced proteins with an anti-lipocortin-1 polyclonal antiserum revealed the presence of lipocortin-1-like immunoreactive species with a molecular mass of 35-37 kDa. Furthermore, inhibition of lipopolysaccharide-induced nitrite production by glucocorticoid-induced proteins in J774 cells was reversed by addition of anti-lipocortin-1 neutralizing polyclonal antibody (160 dilution; 4 h before lipopolysaccharide). Comparison of glucocorticoid-induced proteins inhibition of both nitrite production and inducible NO synthase mRNA expression suggests that these effects result mainly from inhibition of lipopolysaccharide-mediated inducible NO synthase gene expression. These results indicate that negative regulation of inducible NO synthase by glucocorticoids is, at least in part, mediated by glucocorticoid-induced proteins that involve also members of the lipocortin-like superfamily.