Changes in endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) expression may be involved in the endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation dysfunction associated with several vascular diseases. In the present work, we demonstrate that eNOS mRNA contains a previously undescribed cis element in the 3' untranslated region (3' UTR). A U+C-rich segment in the 3' UTR is critical in complex formation with bovine aortic endothelial cell cytosolic proteins. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), which destabilizes eNOS mRNA, increased the binding activity of the cytosolic proteins in a time-dependent manner. These data suggest that endothelial cytosolic proteins bind to the 3' UTR of eNOS mRNA. These proteins may play a role in TNF-α induced eNOS mRNA destabilization.