1. To elucidate the role of the nitric oxide (NO) transmitter system in the regulation of gap junctional channel gating, we have examined the effects of the NO donor sodium nitroprusside (SNP) on the electrical synapses of hybrid bass H2-type horizontal cells. 2. SNP reversibly reduced the macroscopic junctional conductance without significantly changing voltage sensitivity. 3. Kinetic analyses showed that SNP made the voltage-dependent decay of junctional currents more rapid. 4. Single-channel data showed that SNP reduced channel open probability by reducing channel open frequency. 5. The action of SNP can be prevented or largely reduced by the NO scavenger, haemoglobin. NO release by SNP solutions was detected directly by a NO sensor. 6. NO appears to modulate the gap junctional conductance by activating the cGMP-cGMP-dependent protein kinase G (PKG) pathway. A membrane-permeable cGMP analogue, 8-Br-cGMP, mimics the action of SNP. A soluble guanylate cyclase inhibitor (LY-83583) and a highly specific cGMP-dependent protein kinase inhibitor (RKRARKE) blocked the action of NO. 3-Isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (IBMX), a non-specific phosphodiesterase inhibitor, potentiated the effect of SNP. 7. [Ca2+]i image studies showed that NO donors did not change [Ca2+]i in horizontal cells, suggesting that the regulation of junctional channels by NO is [Ca2+]i independent.