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In several other models of chronic renal disease, decreases in renal nitric oxide activity and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) protein abundance have been demonstrated. Here, we studied diabetic obese Zucker (ZDF Gmi fa/fa) rats that develop severe hyperglycaemia and renal disease, together with their lean control animals, to determine if renal nitric oxide deficiency also occurs in this model.Obese Zucker rats aged 10 to 12 weeks were maintained on Purina 5008 diet until 4, 8, or 11 months of age and compared with similarly maintained, 4- and 11-month-old lean Zucker rats. NOS activity and abundance of endothelial NOS (eNOS) and neuronal NOS (nNOS) were measured on homogenates of kidney cortex. Blood was analysed for glucose, lipids, creatinine, and blood urea nitrogen and kidney tissue was obtained for histology.Obese rats exhibited severe hyperglycaemia from 4 months of age and developed increasing hyperlipidaemia, proteinuria, and decreasing renal function with age compared to lean counterparts. At 4 months cortical NOS activity and nNOS abundance were lower in obese rats than in lean ones. At 11 months NOS activity remained depressed and nNOS abundance had declined further in obese rats. Glomerulosclerosis in the obese rats was mild at 4 months, becoming severe by 11 months. Lean rats had only mild age-dependent increases in glomerular injury.The chronic renal disease that occurs in hyperglycaemic, obese Zucker rats is associated with decreased renal cortical nitric oxide production and increasing renal injury, although the changes do not resemble those of diabetic nephropathy in man.