Modulation of soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) by nitric oxide (NO) is altered in brain from cirrhotic patients. The aim of this work was to assess whether an animal model of cirrhosis, bile duct ligation, alone or combined with diet-induced hyperammonemia for 7-10 days reproduces the alterations in NO modulation of sGC found in brains from cirrhotic patients. sGC activity was measured under basal conditions and in the presence of NO in cerebellum and cerebral cortex of the following groups of rats: controls, bile duct ligation without or with hyperammonemia and hyperammonemia without bile duct ligation. In cerebellum activation of sGC by NO was significantly lower in bile duct ligated rats with (12 +/- five-fold) or without (14 +/- six-fold) hyperammonemia than in control rats (23 +/- seven-fold). In cerebral cortex activation of sGC by NO was higher in rats with bile duct ligation with hyperammonemia (124 +/- 30-fold) but not without hyperammonemia (59 +/- 15-fold) than in control rats (66 +/- 11-fold). The combination of bile duct ligation and hyperammonemia reproduces the alterations in the modulation of soluble guanylate cyclase by NO found in cerebral cortex and cerebellum of cirrhotic patients while bile duct ligation or hyperammonemia alone reproduces the effects in cerebellum but not in cerebral cortex.