Endogenous nitric oxide (EDRF) plays an important role in the regulation of systemic and renal blood pressure by an alteration of vascular tone. To assess the effect of L-arginine (160 mumol/min i.v. for 3 hours), the precursor of EDRF, on blood pressure, protein-excretion and renal function (GFR = glomerular filtration rate, RPF = renal plasma flow) we performed a prospective, double blind, placebo controlled study. 18 patients with chronic glomerulonephritis (51.3 +/- 11.5 years), renal insufficiency (GFR < 65 ml/min) and hypertension were investigated for changes in GFR and RPF by continuous inulin- and PAH-clearances and for changes in permselectivity by determination of protein-excretion. L-arginine infusion results in a reduction of proteinuria (p < 0.05, t-test). There is no significant effect on renal hemodynamics and mean arterial pressure (MAP). Comparing the excretion of the endogenous proteins, only albuminuria is decreased significantly (p < 0.01), whereas IgG-excretion is reduced slightly (p < 0.05). This can be considered as an indicator of a special influence on the mesangial cells or the basement membrane of the glomerulum itself by EDRF. In conclusion L-arginine reduces protein-excretion without significant alterations in renal hemodynamics and so might prevent a decline in renal failure.