The development of the mouth in animals has fascinated researchers for decades, and a recent study proposed the modern view of recurrent evolution of protostomy and deuterostomy. Here we expanded our knowledge about conserved traits of mouth formation in chordates, testing the hypothesis that nitric oxide (NO) is a potential regulator of this process. In the present work we show for the first time that NO is an essential cell signaling molecule for cephalochordate mouth formation, as previously shown for vertebrates, indicating its conserved ancestral role in chordates. The experimental decrease of NO during early amphioxus Branchiostoma lanceolatum development impaired the formation of the mouth and gill slits, demonstrating that it is a prerequisite in pharyngeal morphogenesis. Our results represent the first step in the understanding of NO physiology in non-vertebrate chordates, opening new evolutionary perspectives into the ancestral importance of NO homeostasis and acquisition of novel biological roles during evolution.