Background: Renal ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) is a complex syndrome involving several mechanisms such as renal vasoconstrictions, extensive tubular damage and glomerular injury. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), a potent antioxidant by itself, may serve as a precursor for glutathione synthesis. The aim of this study was to investigate the possible effects of NAC on liver and kidney tissue arginase activity, ornithine and plasma nitric oxide levels during the I/R injury of kidney. Methods: Twenty-four female Sprague-Dawley rats divided into three groups: group 1; was given saline intraperitoneally (i.p.). Saline to group 2 and NAC (300 mg kg(-1)) to group 3 were injected i.p. 30 min before induction of ischemia. Groups 2 and 3; subjected to bilateral renal ischemia (60 min) followed by reperfusion (24 h). After the reperfusion period, the rats were sacrificed and liver and kidney tissue arginase activities, ornithine and plasma nitric oxide (NO) levels were determined. Results: NAC had an increasing effect on both of liver and kidney tissue arginase activities and ornithine levels while decreasing plasma NO concentration. Conclusion: The stimulatory effect of NAC on arginase activity may result in an inhibition of the plasma NO level. Moreover, it could be possible that one of the protective mechanisms of NAC might be through the stimulation on the both liver and kidney tissue ornithine levels. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.