Nitric oxide plays a crucial role in the maintenance of liver function and integrity. During stress, the inducible heme oxygenase-1 protein and its reaction products, including carbon monoxide, also exert potent hepatoprotective effects. We investigated a potential relationship between endogenous nitric oxide synthesis and the hepatic regulation of heme oxygenase-1. Inhibition of nitric oxide synthesis in vivo by injection of l-NAME led to a dose-dependent induction of heme oxygenase-1 mRNA, protein and activity in the rat liver, whereas did not affect the expression of other heat shock proteins. The effect of l-NAME was demonstrated by hemodynamic changes within the liver circulation as measured by ultrasonic flow probes. Inhibition of nitric oxide synthase led to a decline in hepatic arterial and portal venous blood flow, and subsequently caused liver cell damage. In contrast, the combined administration of l-NAME and the nitric oxide-independent intestinal vasodilator dihydralazine completely restored portal venous flow, abolished the liver cell damage, and prevented the upregulation of heme oxygenase-1, despite inhibition of nitric oxide production. In conclusion, nitric oxide deficiency upregulates hepatic heme oxygenase-1, which is reversible by maintaining hepatic blood flow. This interdependence has important implications for the development of therapeutic strategies aimed at modulating the activity of these hepatoprotective mediator systems.