We examined hypothalamic nitric oxide synthase (NOS) levels and release as well as steady-state mRNA levels in rats with cholestasis due to bile duct resection (BDR) and in sham-resected control rats. BDR rats had a significant reduction in hypothalamic NOS-containing neurons in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus as determined by NADPH-diaphorase staining, compared with sham-resected controls. In addition, NOS activity, measured indirectly by determining nitrite release from hypothalamic explants, was significantly lower in BDR rats compared with sham-resected animals. Hypothalamic steady-state NOS mRNA levels [brain constitutive NOS (bNOS)] were determined by semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and were found to be increased 1.5-fold in BDR rats compared with sham rats. In summary, BDR rats have diminished hypothalamic NOS levels and activity coupled with enhanced steady-state bNOS mRNA levels, suggesting that depressed hypothalamic NOS protein levels are due to posttranscriptional defects.