The distribution and abundance of nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-containing neurons and their terminals in the gastrointestinal tract of the guinea-pig were examined in detail using NADPH diaphorase histochemistry and NOS immunohistochemistry. NOS-containing cell bodies were found in the myenteric plexus throughout the gastrointestinal tract and in the submucous plexus of the stomach, colon and rectum. NOS-containing neurons comprised between 12% (in the duodenum) and 54% (in the esophagus) of total myenteric neurons. In the ileum, NOS neurons represented 19% of total myenteric neurons. Most of the NOS neurons throughout the gastrointestinal tract possessed lamellar dendrites and a single axon. NOS-containing terminals were abundant in the circular muscle, including that of the sphincters, but were rare in the longitudinal muscle, except for the taeniae of the caecum. The muscularis mucosae of the esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum received a medium to dense innervation by NOS terminals. Within myenteric ganglia, NOS-containing terminals were extremely sparse in the esophagus, stomach and duodenum, common in the ileum and distal colon and extremely dense in the proximal colon and rectum. The submucous plexus in the ileum and large intestine contained a sparse plexus of NOS-containing terminals. NOS terminals were not observed in the mucosa of any region. We conclude that throughout the gastrointestinal tract of the guinea-pig, NOS neurons are inhibitory motor neurons to the circular muscle; in the ileum and large intestine, NOS neurons may also function as interneurons.