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To determine whether 12 days' treatment with NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, in spite of the increased arterial load, resulted in a growth-inhibitory response in the heart, aorta and skeletal muscle vascular bed, and whether the presence of L-NAME affected the expression of insulinlike growth factor-I and its receptor messenger RNA (mRNA).Wistar rats were treated orally either with 100 mg/kg L-NAME or with tap water. On days 2, 4, 7 and 12 after initiation of treatment, the systolic blood pressure/mean arterial blood pressure and heart rate were measured, rats were killed and their heart and aorta were excised. Insulin-like growth factor-I and its receptor mRNA were quantitated by solution hybridization assay. On day 12 resistance properties in the skeletal muscle vascular bed were measured by using an in-vivo constant-flow preparation.The blood pressure in L-NAME-treated rats was increased immediately after initiation of treatment and it continued to increase throughout the experimental period. No hypertrophy was noted in the heart. Moreover, a 21% (P < 0.05) decrease in the right: left ventricular weight ratio indicated that attenuation of growth of the right ventricle had occurred. Increased expression of insulin-like growth factor-I and its receptor mRNA was observed neither in the heart nor in the aorta. The skeletal muscle vascular bed showed a 26% increased resistance at maximal vasodilatation (P < 0.05), which was indicative of a reduced average lumen size. A lower than expected perfusion pressure at maximal vasoconstriction was observed (17% above control, P < 0.05), implicating only modest medial thickening.L-NAME hypertension caused a prompt increase in blood pressure, which led neither to left ventricular hypertrophy nor to the expected overexpression of left ventricular/aortic insulin-like growth factor-I mRNA and only to partial structural adaptation in the skeletal muscle vasculature. These findings suggest that augmented expression of insulinlike growth factor-I and its receptor could be mandatory for conveying an appropriate adaptive hypertrophic response, at least in the heart.