Cushing's syndrome and systemic administration of glucocorticoids are associated with hypertension, but the underlying molecular mechanism is only partially understood. We have shown previously that dexamethasone downregulates the expression of the endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) gene in human endothelial cells and in the rat and that this may contribute to the blood pressure-raising effect of the steroid [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 96 (1999) 13357]. In the current communication, we demonstrated that dexamethasone increased mean arterial blood pressure in wild-type C-57 Bl6 mice (eNOS+/+ mice), but had no effect on blood pressure in mice with a disrupted eNOS gene (eNOS-/- mice) derived from the same strain. The NOS inhibitor ethylisothiourea, used for control purposes, showed a hypertensive effect in eNOS+/+ mice, but no such effect in eNOS-/- mice. Serum NO2-/NO3- levels, an indicator of total body NO synthesis, decreased significantly when eNOS+/+ mice were treated with dexamethasone. eNOS-/- mice had lower serum NO2-/NO3- levels per se, which were not changed significantly by dexamethasone. Dexamethasone decreased the expression of eNOS in three major organs of the mouse investigated, namely the heart, the liver, and the kidney. We conclude that the expressional downregulation of eNOS and the ensuing reduction in vascular NO production contributes to the hypertension caused by glucocorticoids.