1. We measured nitric oxide synthase activity in peripheral blood polymorphonuclear leucocytes from 10 patients with sepsis syndrome and 10 healthy subjects.
2. Synthase activity was significantly higher in patients with sepsis than in control subjects (1202 ± 579 compared with 595 ± 544 pmol of nitric oxide min−1 mg−1 of cell protein, P < 0.05).
3. Activity was greatest in those patients with the larger number of organ failures, although this failed to reach significance (1489 ± 560 in patients with three or more organ failures and 843 ± 404 pmol of nitric oxide min−1 mg−1 of cell protein in those with less than three, P = 0.11).
4. This study provides evidence for the role of overproduction of the vasodilator nitric oxide in sepsis syndrome.