The c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK), also known as stress-activated protein kinase, is a mitogen-activated protein kinase that determines cell survival in response to environmental stress. Activation of JNK involves redox-sensitive mechanisms and physiological stimuli such as shear stress, the dragging force generated by blood flow over the endothelium. Laminar shear stress has antiatherogenic properties and controls structure and function of endothelial cells by mechanisms including production of nitric oxide (NO) and superoxide (O(-)(2)). Here we show that both NO and O(-)(2) are required for activation of JNK by shear stress in endothelial cells. The present study also demonstrates that exposure of endothelial cells to shear stress increases tyrosine nitration, a marker of reactive nitrogen species formation. Furthermore, inhibitors or scavengers of NO, O(-)(2), or reactive nitrogen species prevented shear-dependent increase in tyrosine nitration and activation of JNK. Peroxynitrite alone, added to cells as a bolus or generated over 60 min by 3-morpholinosydnonimine, also activates JNK. These results suggest that reactive nitrogen species, in this case most likely peroxynitrite, act as signaling molecules in the mechanoactivation of JNK.