It has been reported that nitric oxide (NO) is a positive modulator of glucagon release. The involvement of cyclic guanosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cGMP) in NO-induced glucagon secretion and the possible role of NO in glucagon release induced by l-arginine were investigated in mouse clonal alpha-cell line clone 6 (alpha TC6) cells, which predominantly secrete glucagon. NOC12, an NO donor, elicited an increase in glucagon release from alpha Tc6 cells in perifusion and static incubation. An inhibitor of cGMP-dependent protein kinase inhibited NOC12-induced glucagon release. NOC12 (1 mmol/L) also increased the cellular level of cGMP. In addition, a permeable cGMP agonist increased glucagon release. l-arginine (15 mmol/L) increased perifusate concentrations of glucagon and nitrite in alpha Tc6 cells, which were inhibited by N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester. NO synthase (NOS) activity was shown in alpha Tc6 cells by l-citrulline formation assay. Our present findings suggest that NO plays a stimulating role in glucagon release from the alpha cells, and that a cGMP-dependent pathway is involved in NO action. These findings also provide further evidence that l-arginine might play a stimulating role in regulating glucagon secretion, at least partly, through generation of NO in the islets.