The effects of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA), an inhibitor of nitric oxide (NO) biosynthesis on the splanchnic and systemic circulation, were investigated in rats with cirrhosis induced by carbon tetrachloride. Portal hypertension in these rats was accompanied by decreased arterial blood pressure and peripheral vascular resistance as well as by splanchnic vasodilation with increased portal venous inflow and decreased splanchnic resistance. Intravenous bolus administration of L-NMMA (25 mg/kg) significantly increased systemic blood pressure and decreased cardiac output. L-NMMA also significantly increased systemic and splanchnic vascular resistance; whereas blood flow to the stomach, small intestine, colon, pancreas, mesentery, spleen, and kidney was decreased significantly. L-NMMA did not alter the portal pressure or portosystemic shunting in these cirrhotic rats, yet portal vascular resistance increased, suggesting effects on the intrahepatic and collateral circulation. Pretreatment with L-arginine (300 mg/kg) prevented the hemodynamic changes induced by L-NMMA. These findings support the concept that local excess formation of NO contributes to changes in splanchnic circulation associated with portal hypertension in cirrhosis.