1. The effects of l-arginine on systemic and renal haemodynamics were investigated in conscious dogs. l-Arginine was administered intravenously at doses of 15 and 75 μmol min−1 kg−1 for 20 min.
2. Mean arterial blood pressure, heart rate and cardiac output were not changed significantly by l-arginine infusion. However, l-arginine infusion induced a significant elevation of renal blood flow from 50 ± 3 to 94 ± 12 ml/min (means ± sem, P < 0.01).
3. Simultaneous infusion of NG-monomethyl-l-arginine (0.5 μmol min−1 kg−1) significantly inhibited the increase in renal blood flow produced by l-arginine (15 μmol min−1 kg−1) without significant changes in mean arterial blood pressure or heart rate.
4. Pretreatment with atropine completely inhibited the l-arginine-induced increase in renal blood flow, whereas pretreatment with indomethacin attenuated it (63 ± 4 versus 82 ± 10 ml/min, P < 0.05).
5. A continuous infusion of l-arginine increased renal blood flow in the intact kidney (55 ± 3 versus 85 ± 9 ml/min, P < 0.05), but not in the contralateral denervated kidney (58 ± 3 versus 56 ± 4 ml/min, P > 0.05).
6. These results suggest that intravenously administered l-arginine produces an elevation of renal blood flow, which may be mediated by facilitation of endogenous acetylcholine-induced release of endothelium-derived relaxing factor and vasodilatory prostaglandins.