The present study investigated age-related changes in nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and arginase in the subregions of the hippocampus and their correlations with animals' performance in the open field, T-maze, and water maze tasks. Aged rats (24 months old) showed reduced exploratory activity and poorer spatial learning relative to the young adults (4 months old). Significant increases in total NOS activity were found in the aged dentate gyrus and a dramatic decrease in endothelial NOS expression was observed in the aged CA2/3. Activity or protein expression of inducible NOS was not detected in any subregion of the hippocampus. There were no age-related changes in total arginase activity or arginase I and arginase II protein expression. Correlation analysis revealed that animals' motor ability was associated with CA1 NOS and arginase, as well as hippocampal function. The present findings provide further support for the involvement of NOS/NO and arginase in the normal aging process. A strong positive correlation between CA1 eNOS protein expression and swimming speed in the water maze task may reflect a relationship between the local cerebral blood flow and neuronal activity. ©2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.