Like many pathogens that undergo an intravascular stage of development, larvae of the helminth parasite Schistosoma mansoni migrate through the blood vessels, where they are in close contact with endothelial cells. In vitro exposure of murine endothelial cells to various cytokines (interferon γ, tumor necrosis factor α, and interleukin 1α or 1β) resulted in their activation to kill schistosomula through an arginine-dependent mechanism involving production of nitric oxide (NO). Cytokine-treated endothelial cells showed increased expression of mRNA for the inducible form of the NO synthase, and both NO production and larval killing were suppressed by treatment with competitive inhibitors. The effector function of cytokine- treated endothelial cells was similar to that of activated inflammatory tissue macrophages, although activation appeared to be differentially regulated in these two cell types. Activated endothelial cells killed older (18-day) forms of the parasite, such as those currently thought to be a primary target of immune elimination in the lungs of mice previously vaccinated with radiation-attenuated cercariae, as well as newly transformed larvae. In C57BL/6 mice, which become resistant to S. mansoni infection as a result of vaccination with irradiated cercariae, endothelial cell morphology characteristic of activation was observed in the lung by 1-2 weeks after challenge infection. Similar endothelial cell changes were absent in P- strain mice, which do not become resistant as a result of vaccination. Together, these observations indicate that endothelial cells, not traditionally considered to be part of the immune system, may play an important role in immunity to S. mansoni and, by means of NO-dependent killing, could serve as effectors of resistance to other intravascular pathogens.