We studied whether thiopental affects endothelial nitric oxide dependent vasodilator responses and nitrite production (an indicator of nitric oxide production) elicited by acetylcholine, histamine, and A23187 in rat aorta (artery in which nitric oxide is the main endothelial relaxant factor). In addition, we evaluated the barbiturate effect on nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity in both rat aorta and kidney homogenates. Thiopental (10-100 μg/mL) reversibly inhibited the endothelium-dependent relaxation elicited by acetylcholine, histamine, and A23187. On the contrary, this anesthetic did not modify the endothelium-independent but cGMP-dependent relaxation elicited by sodium nitroprusside (1 nM - 1 μM) and nitroglycerin (1 nM - 1 μM), thus excluding an effect of thiopental on guanylate cyclase of vascular smooth muscle. Thiopental (100 μg/mL) inhibited both basal (87.8 ± 14.3%) and acetylcholine- or A23187-stimulated (78.6 ± 3.9 and 39.7 ± 5.6%, respectively) production of nitrites in aortic rings. In addition the barbiturate inhibited (100 μg/mL) the NOS (45 ± 4 and 42.8 ± 9%) in aortic and kidney homogenates, respectively (measured as 14C-labeled citrulline production). In conclusion, thiopental inhibition of endothelium-dependent relaxation and nitrite production in aortic rings strongly suggests an inhibitory effect on NOS. Thiopental inhibition of the NOS provides further support to this contention.