The high concentration and the localization of nitric oxide synthase in the olfactory system of both vertebrates and invertebrates suggest that the diffusible messenger nitric oxide plays a central role in the processing of chemosensory information. This paper describes the nitric oxide releasing system in the antenna and the antennal lobes of Apis mellifera using the NADPH diaphorase technique, and analyses the contribution of the nitric oxide system in the neuronal processing of chemosensory signals using a behavioural assay in vivo. In the antenna the strongest NADPH diaphorase staining is found in non-neuronal auxiliary and/or epithelial cells, while the sensory cells and the antennal nerve are stained at a low level. At the major site of chemosensory signal integration, the antennal lobes, the highest nitric oxide synthase activity is located in the glomeruli, which are ideally suited to act as diffusion compartments. We demonstrate that inhibition of nitric oxide synthase in the antennal lobes specifically interferes with neuronal processing of repetitive chemosensory stimuli but does not affect the response to single stimuli, and is independent of parameters such as satiation level, stimulus strength, interstimulus interval and duration of sensory stimuli. Since inhibition of the soluble guanylate cyclase, a major target of nitric oxide, also particularly affects the adaptive component, the physiological effects of nitric oxide appear to be mediated by the action of cGMP. These findings suggest that the nitric oxide/cGMP system in the antennal lobes is a component of the molecular machinery involved in adaptive and/or integrative mechanisms during chemosensory information processing in vivo.