Exposure of BALB/c mice to mosquitoes infected with irradiated Plasmodium berghei confers protective immunity against subsequent sporozoite challenge. Immunized mice challenged with viable sporozoites develop parasitemia when treated orally with substrate inhibitors of nitric oxide synthase (NOS). This suggests that the production of nitric oxide (NO) prevents the development of exoerythrocytic stages of malaria in liver. Liver tissue from immunized mice expressed maximal levels of mRNA for inducible NOS (iNOS) between 12 and 24 h after challenge with sporozoites. Intraperitoneal injection of neutralizing monoclonal antibody against interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) or in vivo depletion of CD8+ T cells, but not CD4+ T cells, at the time of challenge blocked expression of iNOS mRNA and ablated protection in immunized mice. These results show that both CD8+ T cells and IFN-gamma are important components in the regulation of iNOS in liver which contributes to the protective response of mice immunized with irradiated malaria sporozoites. IFN-gamma, likely provided by malaria-specific CD8+ T cells, induces liver cells, hepatocytes and/or Kupffer cells, to produce NO for the destruction of infected hepatocytes or the parasite within these cells.