Recent work has implicated nitric oxide (NO) in several aspects of male genital physiology including erectile function and androgen secretion, as well as in vitro effects on sperm motility and capacitation. The objectives of this study were to characterize the distribution of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in 'normal' human testis, epididymis, and vas deferens and in testis pathology. Nitric oxide synthase protein was localized immunohistochemically using an eNOS monoclonal antibody. Endothelial NOS protein co-localized to areas that showed positive NADPH diaphorase activity. Within the testis, eNOS protein was localized to the cytoplasm of Leydig cells and Sertoli cells at all stages of spermatogenesis. Within the epididymis and vas deferens, eNOS was localized to the epithelium. Endothelial NOS was also localized to endothelial cells in all tissues; it was not detectable in normal germ cells. Endothelial NOS and diaphorase activity were, however, detected in degenerating or apoptotic intraepithelial germ cells. In addition, prematurely shed spermatocytes and spermatids had intense eNOS expression. Previous studies have suggested a role for NOS in the contractile, hemodynamic, and hormonal aspects of testicular function as well as in epididymal secretion. The studies reported herein suggest a role for eNOS in spermatogenesis and germ cell degeneration.