Nitric oxide, the product of nitric oxide synthase in inflammatory cells, may have a role in tissue injury through its oxidative metabolism. Nitric oxide may have a role in the pathogenesis of duodenal ulcer and may be one of the mechanisms responsible for the association between gastric infection with Helicobacter pylori and peptic disease. In this study, calcium independent nitric oxide synthase activity was detected in human gastric mucosa suggesting expression of the inducible isoform. In 17 duodenal ulcer patients gastric antral and fundic nitric oxide synthase activity was found to be two and 1.5-fold respectively higher than its activity in the antrum and fundus of 14 normal subjects (p<0.05). H pylori was detected in the antrum of 15 of 17 duodenal ulcer patients and only in 7 of 14 of the control subjects. Antral nitric oxide synthase activity in H pylori positive duodenal ulcer patients was twofold higher than in H pylori positive normal subjects (p<0 05). In duodenal ulcer patients antral and fundic nitric oxide synthase activity resumed normal values after induction of ulcer healing with ranitidine. Eradication of H pylori did not further affect gastric nitric oxide synthase activity. These findings suggest that in duodenal ulcer patients stimulated gastric mucosal nitric oxide synthase activity, though independent of the H pylori state, may contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease.