1. The role of the heart rate modulating the decrease in cardiac output induced by the nitric oxide synthesis inhibitor N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) was investigated in anaesthetized dogs. This was achieved in dogs in which a positive pacemaker (PM) cable was located at the right ventricle. 2. The haemodynamic events were evaluated: mean arterial blood pressure (MABP), systemic vascular resistance index (SVRI), stroke volume index (SVI), heart rate (HR) and cardiac index (CI). 3. The infusion of L-NAME (0.01-10 mg kg(-1)) in the animals with the PM off caused a dose-dependent rise in MABP and SVRI, accompanied by significant decreases of HR and SVI. A resulting decrease in CI was observed at all doses of L-NAME used. 4. In the animals with the PM on, HR was maintained stable. Under this condition, the increase in MABP and SVRI as well as the decrease in SVI induced by the L-NAME infusion did not significantly differ from the PM-off animals. However, the resulting decreased CI was markedly attenuated compared to PM-off animals but significant decreases in CI were still observed at higher doses of L-NAME. 5. The results suggest that HR plays an important role in the L-NAME-mediated decreased cardiac output but other factors might also be involved.