Mitochondrial cytochrome c release plays a critical role in apoptotic signal cascade after the activation of cell surface death receptors. We investigated the role played by nitric t oxide (NO) in mitochondrial apoptotic signaling in tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) plus actinomycin D (TNF-α/ActD)-induced apoptosis. NO produced either by S-nitroso-N-acetyl-DL-penicillamine (SNAP) or inducible NO synthase (iNOS) prevented TNF-α/ActD-induced apoptosis in hepatocytes and also inhibited both caspase-8-like (IETDase) and caspase-3-like protease (DEVDase) activity as well as mitochondrial cytochrome c release. Recombinant human (rh) caspase-8 induced the cleavage of the cytochrome c-effluxing factor Bid and cytochrome c release from purified mitochondria in the reconstitution system with Bid(+/+) cytosol, but not with Bid(-/-) cytosol. The addition of SNAP and the caspase-8 inhibitor Ac-IETD-fmk inhibited caspase-8-dependent Bid cleavage and cytochrome c release. The inhibitory effect of NO on caspase-8 was reversed by dithiothreitol (DTT). Furthermore, rh-caspase-8 was found to be modified by S-nitrosylation with 1.7 moles of NO bound per mole of enzyme. Treatment of hepatocytes with interleukin 1 β (IL-1 β) plus interferon gamma (IFN-γ), which induced iNOS expression and NO production, suppressed TNF-α/ActD-induced Bid cleavage and mitochondrial cytochrome c release. The NOS inhibitor N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (NMA) inhibited the protective effects of IL-1β and IFN-γ. The liver-specific NO donor V-PYRRO/NO also inhibited in vivo elevation of IETDase activity, Bid cleavage, and mitochondrial cytochrome c release in the livers of rats injected with TNF-α plus D-galactosamine. Our results indicate that one mechanism by which NO protects hepatocytes from TNF-α/ActD-induced apoptosis is via the interruption of mitochondrial apoptotic signaling through S-nitrosylation of caspase-8.