The goal of this study was to determine the arterial pressure and renal excretory responses to a continuous intravenous infusion of 7.4 nmol/kg per minute of the nitric oxide synthesis inhibitor NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) in conscious rats. Studies were conducted in six groups of Sprague-Dawley rats with indwelling arterial and venous catheters over periods lasting 12 to 26 days. In the first group of rats, L-NAME infusion for 9 days caused a sustained increase in arterial pressure, and on the ninth day arterial pressure was increased 29 mm Hg. Infusion of L-NAME at the higher dose of 37 nmol/kg per minute for 9 days caused no greater increase in arterial pressure than the lower dose. Sodium and volume balances and phenylephrine pressor sensitivity were unchanged during L-NAME administration at 7.4 nmol/kg per minute; plasma renin activity increased 2.5-fold, but the vasodepressor and vasodilator responses to acetylcholine and bradykinin were unchanged. Arterial pressure remained significantly increased 7 days after L-NAME was stopped, but in another group of rats, intravenous L-arginine infusion caused arterial pressure to return to control within 1 day. This same dose of L-arginine was administered for 7 days intravenously, and neither arterial pressure nor sodium balance changed. In other groups of rats, L-arginine was administered in conjunction with L-NAME; this prevented any change in arterial pressure, whereas D-arginine did not. In conclusion, the data suggest that continuous intravenous infusion of L-NAME causes sustained increases in arterial pressure in conscious rats without any sodium or water retention. The hypertension is accompanied by increases in plasma renin activity and can be prevented with intravenous L-arginine administration.