Nitric oxide synthase (EC 1.14.23) substrate analog inhibitors NG-monomethyl-L-Arg, NG-nitro-L-Arg, NG-nitro-L-Arg methyl ester, and aminoguanidine were examined as potential inhibitors of rat liver arginase (EC 126.96.36.199). NG-nitro-L-Arg was found to inhibit arginase catalyzed conversion of L-Arg to L-Orn at pH 7.5 with an IC50 = 27.2 +/- 4.3 mM, compared to L-Val and L-Lys with IC50 values of 6.2 +/- 0.4 mM and 31.3 +/- 2.7 mM, respectively. Inhibition was stereospecific for the L-amino acid, not NG-nitro-D-Arg, and required a free alpha-carboxyl group. NG-nitro-L-Arg was not a substrate for rat liver arginase. These results suggest that arginase inhibition should also be evaluated when studying the effects of NOS substrate analog inhibitors in vivo.