Vascular dysfunction in the splanchnic circulation during portal hypertension is characterized by enhanced NO-mediated vasorelaxation and vascular hyporeactivity to norepinephrine that lead to arterial vasodilation. NPY most likely counteracts both of these key features. Firstly, NPY appears to inhibit Ach- and PNS-induced vasorelaxation in mesenteric arteries. This effect is more pronounced in portal hypertensive rats as compared to control, and most likely reflects the inhibition of increased e- and nNOS-derived NO-synthesis during portal hypertensive conditions. Secondly, NPY sensitizes the mesenteric vasculature to alpha(1)-adrenergic vasoconstriction. Most importantly, in portal hypertensive rats but not in sham rats NPY markedly augments vascular contractility and thereby corrects vascular hyporeactivity. Both actions of NPY increase vascular tone and may well act synergistically in the splanchnic circulation during portal hypertension. Moreover, the vasoconstrictive effects of NPY are most pronounced at particularly high levels of alpha(1)-adrenergic activity. Therefore, it appears that NPY becomes increasingly important for optimizing adrenergic vasoconstriction at particularly high adrenergic drive and also for playing a predominant role for vascular homeostasis. Cirrhotic patients present with elevated circulating plasma levels of NPY, which appears to be independent from the severity of liver dysfunction and to correlate with portal pressure. This finding indicates enhanced NPY release during portal hypertension that may represent a compensatory mechanism aimed at counterbalancing arterial vasodilation by restoring the efficacy of endogenous catecholamines and inhibiting vasodilative drive in the splanchnic circulation.