The possible involvement of nitric oxide (NO) in regulating the motile activities of teleostean melanophores was studied in the dark chub Zacco temmincki (Cyprinidae, Cypriniformes) and in the translucent glass catfish Kryptopterus bicirrhis (Siluridae, Siluriformes). NO donors, including (+/-)-(E)-methyl-2-[(E)-hydroxyimino]-5-nitro-6-methoxy-3-hexaneamide (NOR1), molsidomine (MSD), sodium nitroprusside (SNP) and glyceryl trinitrate (GTN), had no pigment-aggregating action on melanophores, but actively dispersed melanosomes in those cells. Among those reagents, NOR 1, a spontaneous releaser of NO, was the most effective. Inhibitors for nitric oxide synthase (NOS), i.e. N omega-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NNA), N omega-nitro-L-arginine (L-NAME) and N omega-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA), showed melanosome-aggregating effects. A membrane-permeable analogue of cyclic guanosine-3',5'-monophosphate (8-Br-cGMP) was effective in dispersing melanosomes. The sum of these results suggests that NO plays an active role in the elaborate control of color changes in teleosts by dispersing pigment in melanophores via activation of soluble guanylyl cyclase to increase cytosolic levels of cGMP.