The goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that factors released from the gut and carried in the mesenteric lymph contribute to mortality in a lethal gut I/R model. To test this hypothesis, a lethal splanchnic artery occlusion (SAO) shock model was used in male Sprague-Dawley rats. In the first set of experiments, ligation of the mesenteric lymph duct (LDL), which prevents gut-derived factors carried in the intestinal lymphatics from reaching the systemic circulation, significantly improved 24-h survival after a 20-min SAO insult (0% vs. 60% survival; P < 0.05). This increase in survival in the LDL-treated rats was associated with a blunted hypotensive response. Because increased iNOS-induced NO levels have been implicated in SAO-induced shock, we measured plasma nitrite/nitrate levels and liver iNOS protein levels in a second group of animals. Ligation of the mesenteric lymph duct significantly abrogated the SAO-induced increase in plasma nitrite/nitrate levels and the induction of hepatic iNOS (P < 0.05). In an additional series of studies, we documented that LDL increased not only 24-h but also long-term 7-day survival. During the course of these studies, we made the unexpected finding that Sprague-Dawley rats from different animal vendors had differential resistance to SAO, and that the time of the year that the experiments were carried out also influenced the results. Nonetheless, in conclusion, these studies support the hypothesis that factors carried in the mesenteric lymph significantly contribute to the development of irreversible shock after SAO.