Elevation of arterial blood pressure (BP) with high salt intake in Dahl salt-sensitive rats is associated and perhaps, in part, due to downregulation of renal and vascular production of nitric oxide (NO) and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) expressions. Several recent studies have revealed a significant increase in BP in Sprague-Dawley rats on high salt intake. Given the apparent salt sensitivity of Sprague-Dawley rats, we hypothesized that chronic high salt intake may affect NO system in these rats in a manner resembling that reported in salt-sensitive (not salt-resistant) Dahl rats. The effects of a high salt diet (chow containing 8% NaCl) of 48-h or 3-week duration was studied on immunodetectable endothelial (eNOS), inducible (iNOS), and neuronal (nNOS) NOS expressions of relevant organs in male Sprague-Dawley rats. The results were compared with those obtained in the control animals fed a regular no-added salt diet (0.2% NaCl). Consumption of a high salt diet for 3 weeks induced hypertension (HTN) (158 +/- 6 v 115 +/- 5 mm Hg, P < .01) and widespread downregulation of iNOS expression in renal cortex, renal medulla, aorta, and heart. Similarly, chronic salt loading resulted in marked downregulation of eNOS expression in renal cortex and aorta and lowered expressions of nNOS in the brain, renal cortex, and renal medulla. In comparison, short-term salt loading resulted in significant reduction of iNOS in the renal cortex and aorta and of eNOS in the aorta together with significant elevation of nNOS expression in renal medulla and brain. Thus, chronic consumption of a high salt diet resulted in moderate HTN in normotensive Sprague-Dawley rats. This was accompanied by widespread downregulation of various NOS isotypes that undoubtedly contributed to the development and maintenance of HTN in this model.