Adenosine is a potent vasodilator of vascular smooth muscle. Endothelium-derived nitric oxide (NO) elicits vasodilation. We have previously reported that adenosine stimulates the production of NO from porcine carotid arterial endothelial cells (PCAEC) via a receptor-mediated mechanism. This study was to determine whether adenosine also enhances NO production from human arterial endothelium and to define the involvement of adenosine A1 and A2 receptors. Human iliac arterial endothelial cells (HIAEC) and PCAEC were harvested and cultured in dishes. NO production was evaluated with a NO electrode sensor which measured continuously real-time NO production. NO content of the medium bathing HIAEC and PCAEC was significantly increased with adenosine (100 micromol/L). Ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (NECA), a nonselective adenosine receptor agonist, and carboxyethyl-phenethylamino-ethylcarboxamidoadenosine (CGS-21680), a selective adenosine A2a receptor agonist, increased NO production by HIAEC and PCAEC with respective EC50 values of 3.32 and 6.96 nmol/L for NECA and 30.97 and 29.47 nmol/L for CGS-21680. Chlorofuryl-triazolo-quinazolinamine (CGS-15943; 1 micromol/L), an adenosine A1 and A2 receptor antagonist, and aminofuryltriazolotriazinyl-aminoethylphenol (ZM-241385; 1 micromol/L), a selective adenosine A2a receptor antagonist, inhibited the effect of CGS-21680. Chlorocyclopentyl-adenosine (CCPA; 1 micromol/L), an adenosine A1 receptor agonist, significantly depressed NO production by both HIAEC and PCAEC: This effect was inhibited by cyclopentyl-dipropylxanthine (DPCPX), a selective adenosine A1 receptor antagonist. The results demonstrate that adenosine A2a receptors increase, and adenosine A1 receptors decrease, the production of NO by human and porcine arterial endothelial cells.