- To better understand the relationship between cholinergic and nitrergic (NO) innervation in the regulation of proximal gastric (fundic) tone in vivo, the effects of nitric oxide synthase blockade on fundic tone were studied in conscious dogs using vagal cooling and an electronic barostat. Vagal cooling, atropine (0.05 mg kg-1 i. v. bolus) and hexamethonium (1 mg kg-1 i.v. bolus) all markedly decreased fundic tone as reflected by increased intragastric volume, indicating a significant contribution of vagal and enteric cholinergic pathways to the maintenance of canine fundic tone. Administration of L-NNA (10 mg kg-1 i.v. bolus) increased fundic tone and the effects of L-NNA were completely prevented by prior vagal cooling or atropine administration, but not by pretreatment with hexamethonium. The relaxation effects of neurally derived NO appear primarily related to inhibition of ongoing vagal cholinergic activity. The data are consistent with the primary site of action of nitrergic mechanisms on gastric fundic tone in conscious dogs being at a presynaptic site on vagal cholinergic efferent nerves.