A mutation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (ecNOS)-a key enzyme of the endogenous nitrovasodilator system that is essential for the regulation of blood flow and blood pressure-may aggravate the progression to diabetic nephropathy and/or retinopathy. To investigate the association of ecNOS tandem repeat polymorphism with diabetic nephropathy, the ecNOS genotype was assessed in 82 Japanese type 2 diabetic patients without nephropathy, 94 patients with microalbuminuria, 39 patients with nephropathy, and 155 healthy control subjects. The analysis revealed that type 2 diabetic patients with nephropathy (not with microalbuminuria) were significantly different from type 2 diabetic patients without nephropathy and healthy control subjects in genotype distribution (P = 0.0423) and frequency of the ecNOS4a allele (19.2% vs. 7.3 and 7.1%, respectively; P = 0.0078). The odds ratio of progression to diabetic nephropathy in diabetic patients who carry the mutated allele is about 2.87 compared with noncarriers. The stepwise multiple regression analysis in these patients showed that hypertension (F = 9.760) and ecNOS gene polymorphism (F = 5.298) are the relevant variables for nephropathy. However, no association was found between the ecNOS4a allele and hypertension or diabetic retinopathy. These results imply that the ecNOS gene polymorphism may be associated with progression to diabetic nephropathy in Japanese type 2 diabetic patients.