Superoxide (O2-.), nitric oxide (.NO), and their reaction product peroxynitrite (ONOO-) have all been shown to independently exert toxic target molecule reactions. Because these reactive species are often generated in excess during diverse inflammatory and other pathologic circumstances, we assessed the influence of .NO on membrane lipid peroxidation induced by O2-., H2O2, and .OH derived from xanthine oxidase (XO) and by ONOO-. Experimental conditions in lipid oxidation systems were adjusted to yield different rates of delivery of .NO, relative to rates of O2-. and H2O2 generation, by infusion of either .NO or via .NO released from S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine or S-nitrosoglutathione. Peroxidation of phosphatidylcholine liposomes was assessed by formation of thiobarbituric acid-reactive products and by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Liposomes exposed to XO-derived reactive species in the presence of .NO exhibited both stimulation and inhibition of lipid peroxidation, depending on the ratio of the rates of reactive oxygen species production and .NO introduction into reaction systems. Nitric oxide alone did not induce lipid peroxidation. Linolenic acid emulsions peroxidized by XO-derived reactive species showed similar dose-dependent regulation of lipid peroxidation by .NO. Mass spectral analysis of oxidation products showed formation of nitrito-, nitro-, nitrosoperoxo-, and/or nitrated lipid oxidation adducts, demonstrating that .NO serves as a potent terminator of radical chain propagation reactions. Electron spin resonance (ESR) analysis of incubation mixtures provided no evidence for formation of paramagnetic iron-lipid-nitric oxide complexes in reaction systems. Peroxynitrite-dependent lipid peroxidation, which predominantly occurs by metal-independent mechanisms, was also inhibited by .NO. Peroxynitrite-mediated benzoate hydroxylation was partially inhibited by .NO, inferring reaction between .NO and ONOOH. It is concluded that .NO can both stimulate O2-./H2O2/.OH-induced lipid oxidation and mediate oxidant-protective reactions in membranes at higher rates of .NO production, with the prooxidant versus antioxidant outcome critically dependent on relative concentrations of individual reactive species. Prooxidant reactions of .NO will occur after O2-. reaction with .NO to yield potent secondary oxidants such as ONOO- and the antioxidant effects of .NO a consequence of direct reaction with alkoxyl and peroxyl radical intermediates during lipid peroxidation, thus terminating lipid radical chain propagation reactions.