Administration of extracellular hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers often induces mild increases in blood pressure. In order to test whether nitric oxide (NO) scavenging is responsible for the hypertensive effect, we constructed and tested a set of recombinant hemoglobins that vary in rates of reaction with NO. The results suggest that the rapid reactions of oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin with nitric oxide are the fundamental cause of the hypertension. The magnitude of the blood-pressure effect correlates directly with the in vitro rate of NO oxidation. Hemoglobins with decreased NO-scavenging activity may be more suitable for certain therapeutic applications than those that cause depletion of nitric oxide.