Failure of GI tract mucosa to act as a barrier against bacterial translocation (BT) has been proposed as a potential source of sepsis and subsequent multiple organ failure post thermal injury. Nitric oxide (NO) is an inorganic radical produced by NO synthase (NOS) from L-arginine. Gut mucosal constitutive NOS (cNOS) provides protection for itself. In contrast to cNOS, inducible NOS (iNOS) releases far greater amounts of NO, promotes oxidative reactions and is responsible for tissue injury. Peroxynitrite formed by the rapid reaction between superoxide and NO, is a toxic substance that contributes to tissue injury in a number of biological systems. This study was designed to investigate the effect of iNOS specific inhibitor S-methylisothiourea (SMT) on the postburn intestinal mucosal barrier function and the possible mechanism of SMT's action. Female SPF Sprague Dawley rats underwent 35% total body surface area (TBSA) or sham burn. Either SMT or the same volume of saline was given (5 mg/kg, i.p. q 12 h) for 2 days to assess the effect of iNOS inhibition. On postburn day 2, the intestinal mucosal cNOS and iNOS activity were assayed by using Griess' reagent, the mesenteric lymph node (MLN), spleen and liver were collected and cultured for BT assay and the cellular localization of nitrotyrosine, a marker for peroxynitrite activity, was examined by immunostaining. After thermal injury in rats, administration of SMT for 2 days decreased the intestinal mucosal iNOS activity/ tNOS activity ratio and the BT incidence. Nitrotyrosine immunostaining of the intestinal mucosa showed a decrease in the SMT-treated group. These findings suggest that SMT, a specific inhibitor for iNOS improves the barrier function after burn by suppression of the intestinal mucosal iNOS activity. The decrease in NO production resulted in decreased formation of peroxynitrite and subsequently decreased damage of mucosal tissue.