Our aim was to investigate systemic nitric oxide (NO) production and its potential determinants such as insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and circulating methylated analogs of L-arginine in uncomplicated essential hypertension (EH). Nineteen newly diagnosed, untreated male subjects with mild pure uncomplicated EH and 11 normotensive controls were studied at rest after an overnight fast. The groups had comparable age, body mass index, creatinine clearance, cholesterol, fasting glucose, and insulin. In hypertensives, the urinary excretion rate of nitrite plus nitrate (Unox), an index of endogenous NO production, was depressed (56+/-17 vs. 77+/-23 micromol/mmol creatinine; p < 0.05), whereas plasma levels of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), an endogenous inhibitor of NO synthesis, were increased (2.4+/-1.1 vs. 1.1+/-0.7 microM; p < 0.005). Circulating concentrations of symmetric dimethylarginine were similar in both groups (1.4+/-1.3 vs. 1.5+/-1.1 microM; p = NS). The L-arginine-to-ADMA ratio was reduced in hypertension (3.3+/-0.5 vs. 4.5+/-0.8; p < 0.001 for In-transformed data). There was no correlation between Unox and either the magnitude of insulin resistance or dyslipidemia in EH. Thus in male subjects with EH, endogenous systemic NO formation appears depressed, which is unrelated to accompanying insulin resistance or dyslipidemia. Circulating ADMA levels are increased in uncomplicated EH, which may be of potential relevance.