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The existence of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in retinal rod outer segments and pigmented epithelial cells suggests that NO in excess could impair the interaction between these cells, resulting in photorecepor degeneration. To test this hypothesis, NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), an NOS inhibitor, was intraperitoneally injected daily into rats subjected to constant illumination for 7 days in order to destroy their photoreceptors. By measuring photoreceptor nuclear layer thicknesses, we found that L-NAME partially protects (by up to 35%) against the degeneration of photoreceptors and acts to maintain their organization. Thus NO may be involved in the process by which photoreceptor degeneration results from constant illumination of the retina.