The objective of this study was to assess whether nitric oxide synthesis inhibition affects intestinal barrier function after ischemia-reperfusion of the feline small bowel. Local intra-arterial infusion of the nitric oxide synthesis inhibitor NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME; 25 nmol.ml-1.min-1) was performed in autoperfused segments of cat ileum for 60 min after 90 min of ischemia and 60 min of reperfusion. Epithelial permeability was quantitated by measuring blood-to-lumen clearance of 51Cr-labeled EDTA, and microvascular dysfunction was assessed by measuring the clearance of protein from the vasculature into the interstitium. 125I-labeled albumin clearance from blood to lumen and histology were performed to further characterize the extent of intestinal dysfunction after reperfusion of the postischemic intestine in the presence and absence of L-NAME. Ischemia-reperfusion-induced mucosal and microvascular permeability increases were dramatically augmented by L-NAME infusion, and this effect was reversed by infusion of L-arginine (125 nmol.ml-1.min-1). Initiating L-arginine (but not D-arginine) infusion alone 10 min before reperfusion provided protection against ischemia-reperfusion-induced mucosal barrier dysfunction; however, this was not associated with a reduction in endogenous levels of L-arginine during ischemia-reperfusion. These data suggest that basal nitric oxide production is important in minimizing mucosal and microvascular barrier dysfunction associated with reperfusion of postischemic intestine.