Genistein, a principal soy isoflavone, has been identified as a protein kinase inhibitor that possesses immunosuppresslve and anti-inflammatory properties. The aim of the study was to determine if genistein modified chronic ileitis in guinea pigs induced by the hapten trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS), and the activity index of cultured macrophages (RAW 264.7 cells) stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Genistein at low doses (0.1 mg/kg, s.c.) had mild anti-inflammatory effects in TNBS ileitis. Therapeutic benefit included a reduction in nitric oxide production, granulocyte infiltration and improved mucosal architecture. Genistein, at low doses, also appeared to attenuate immunohistochemical staining for inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and nitrotyrosine. The beneficial effects of genistein were not apparent at doses above 0.1 mg/kg. We found that genistein also inhibited LPS-induced nitrite production by cultured macrophages and protected against LPS-induced necrosis despite its ability to cause apoptosis. These results indicate that genistein displayed mild anti-inflammatory properties which may, in part, involve an attenuation of nitric oxide release via inducible nitric oxide synthase, and the formation of peroxynitrite.