Intracellular sulfhydryls, both protein and non-protein, are potential targets of nitric oxide-related species. S-Nitrosation of proteins can occur in vivo and can affect their activity. Metabolic pathways that regulate protein S-nitrosation are therefore likely to be biologically important. We now report that formaldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme that decomposes S-nitrosoglutathione, can indirectly regulate the level of cellular protein S-nitrosation. Nitrogen oxide donors induced high levels of protein S-nitrosation in HeLa cells and lower levels in Mutatect fibrosarcoma cells, as determined by Saville-Griess assay and Western-dot-blot analysis. Depletion of glutathione by treatment with buthionine sulfoximine markedly increased protein S-nitrosation in both cell lines. Glutathione depletion also increased cytokine-induced S-nitrosation in brain endothelial cells. Formaldehyde dehydrogenase activity was 2-fold higher in Mutatect than in HeLa cells. We downregulated formaldehyde dehydrogenase activity in Mutatect cells by stably expressing antisense RNA and short-interfering RNA. In these cells, both protein S-nitrosation and S-nitrosoglutathione levels were significantly enhanced after exposure to nitrogen oxide donors as compared to parental cells. Overall, a strong inverse correlation between total S-nitrosothiols and formaldehyde dehydrogenase activity was seen. Inhibition of glutathione reductase, the enzyme that converts oxidized to reduced glutathione, by dehydroepiandrosterone similarly increased protein S-nitrosation and S-nitrosoglutathione levels in both cell lines. Our results provide the first evidence that formaldehyde dehydrogenase-dependent decomposition of S-nitrosoglutathione plays a role in protecting against nitrogen oxide-mediated protein S-nitrosation. We propose that formaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione reductase participate in a glutathione-dependent metabolic cycle that decreases protein S-nitrosation following exposure of cells to nitric oxide.