Nitric oxide (NO) is one of the important biologic mediators in regulation of gastrointestinal (GI) functions, but the influence of NO on the release of secretin and cholecystokinin (CCK) and exocrine pancreatic secretion has not been adequately investigated in the rat. The aim of this study was to determine the role of NO on endogenous and exogenous secretin- or CCK-stimulated pancreatic exocrine secretion both in anesthetized and conscious rats. Experiments were carried out in four different groups of rats with duodenal pancreatobiliary cannulas and jugular vein catheters. Group 1: During duodenal infusion of 0.05N HCl or 15% casein (pH 7.0), N-nitro-L-arginine (NNA), an inhibitor of NO-synthase in graded doses (2.5, 5, 10 mg/kg/h), was infused intravenously. Group 2: One hour after starting intravenous secretin at 5 pmol/kg/h or intravenous CCK-8 at 0.06 microg/kg/h, NNA in graded doses was administered intravenously. Group 3: In conscious rats, NNA (5 mg/kg/h) was given intravenously for 1 hour after a meal. Group 4: L-Arginine at 100 mg/kg/h was infused intravenously during the period of NNA (5 mg/kg/h) infusion in groups 1, 2, and 3. Pancreatic juice was collected at 30-minute intervals to measure volume, as well as output of bicarbonate and protein. At the end of the experiment, plasma secretin, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and CCK levels were determined by radioimmunoassay (RIA). NNA dose dependently inhibited the pancreatic secretion of fluid and bicarbonate stimulated by duodenal acidification, exogenous secretin, and a meal. NNA dose dependently inhibited the pancreatic secretion of protein stimulated by duodenal infusion of casein, exogenous CCK, and a meal. L-Arginine significantly reversed the NNA-induced inhibition of pancreatic secretion in all experiments. NNA did not alter significantly the plasma levels of secretin, VIP, and CCK. Our results indicated that endogenous NO plays a significant role in the regulation of pancreatic exocrine secretion stimulated by secretin and CCK. However, NO does not influence the release of secretin, VIP, or CCK in the rat.