The effects of the administration of either the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, quinapril (10 mg/kg/day, orally), or the calcium antagonist, diltiazem (100 mg/kg/day, orally), on blood pressure (BP), renal function, and vascular reactivity in isolated perfused mesenteric beds were studied in rats treated for 8 weeks with the nitric oxide (NO) synthesis inhibitor, NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (LNAME, 40 mg/kg/day). The oral administration of LNAME significantly increased systolic BP values, which reached the levels of 186 +/- 7 mm Hg at week 8. Both quinapril and diltiazem reduced this, although the ACE inhibitor was more effective than the calcium antagonist. The chronic inhibition of NO resulted in an increase in water excretion whether or not the increase in systolic BP was prevented by the coadministration of either quinapril or diltiazem. At the end of the experiment, LNAME-treated rats presented higher proteinuria than control rats (140 +/- 4 mg/24 hours v 21 +/- 1 mg/24 hours, P < .05). This elevated protein excretion was normalized by both antihypertensive drugs. None of the treatments was able to modify either natriuresis or plasma creatinine levels. Endothelium-dependent relaxations to acetylcholine (10(-12) to 10(-8) mol/L) were comparable in all groups. However, the vasoconstriction induced by either the continuous infusion of phenylephrine (10(-5) mol/L) or by a bolus of angiotensin II (1 nmol) was higher in the animals that received LNAME than in control ones. The antihypertensive therapy normalized the response to phenylephrine but not to angiotensin II. These data suggest that both quinapril and diltiazem are not only able to reduce BP elevation induced by the chronic administration of LNAME in rats, but also to prevent the renal damage and the hyperresponsiveness to phenylephrine induced by this NO synthesis inhibitor.