The effects of the nitric oxide donor nitroglycerin on gastric emptying and antropyloroduodenal motility were evaluated in nine healthy male subjects (ages 19-36 yr). Antropyloroduodenal pressures were recorded with a manometric assembly that had nine side holes spanning the antrum and proximal duodenum and a pyloric sleeve sensor; gastric emptying was quantified scintigraphically. In each subject, the emptying of 300 ml of 25% glucose labeled with 99mTc was assessed on two separate days during intravenous infusion of either nitroglycerin (5 micrograms/min in 5% dextrose) or 5% dextrose (control). Studies were performed with the subject in the supine position; blood pressure and heart rate were monitored. Nitroglycerin had no significant effect on blood pressure or heart rate. Nitroglycerin slowed gastric emptying (P < 0.02), and this was associated with greater retention of the drink in the proximal stomach (P < 0.05). In both nitroglycerin and control studies, ingestion of the drink was associated with an increase in the number of isolated pyloric pressure waves (P < 0.05) and antral pressure wave sequences (P < 0.05). Nitroglycerin reduced the number of isolated pyloric pressure waves (P < 0.05), basal pyloric pressure (P < 0.05), and the number of antral pressure wave sequences (P < 0. 05), but not the total number of antral pressure waves. The rate of gastric emptying and the number of isolated pyloric pressure waves were inversely related during control (P = 0.03) and nitroglycerin (P < 0.05) infusions. We conclude that in normal subjects, 1) gastric emptying of 300 ml of 25% glucose is inversely related to the frequency of phasic pyloric pressure waves, and 2) nitroglycerin in a dose of 5 micrograms/min inhibits pyloric motility, alters the organization but not the number of antral pressure waves, and slows gastric emptying and intragastric distribution of 25% glucose.