Nitric oxide, a product of nitric oxide synthase activity, relaxes vascular smooth muscle and elevates brain blood flow. We evaluated the importance of eNOS to cerebral blood flow augmentation after L-arginine infusion and increases in flow after eNOS upregulation in SV-129 mice. Blood flow was measured by laser-Doppler flowmetry before and after L-arginine infusion (450 mg/kg during a 15-minute period) or measured by C-14-iodoamphetamine indicator fractionation or C-14-iodoantipyrine tissue equilibration techniques. rCBF increased by 26% (laser Doppler flowmetry) after L-arginine infusion but did not change in mutant mice deficient in eNOS expression. After eNOS upregulation by chronic simvastatin treatment (2 mg/kg subcutaneously, daily for 14 days), L-arginine amplified and sustained the hyperemia (38%) and increased absolute brain blood flow from 86 +/- 7 to 119 +/- 10 mL/100 g per minute. Furthermore, pretreatment with simvastatin enhanced blood flow within ischemic brain tissue after middle cerebral artery occlusion. Together, these findings suggest that eNOS activity is critical for blood flow augmentation during acute L-arginine infusion, and chronic eNOS upregulation combined with L-arginine administration provides a novel strategy to elevate cerebral blood flow in the normal and ischemic brain.