We have tested the effect of iontophoretic application of the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor l-nitroarginine on the activity of a population of 53 perigeniculate (PGN) cells, recorded extracellularly in the anaesthetized paralysed cat. In all cells tested with visual stimulation during l-nitroarginine application (n= 15), the visually elicited responses were markedly reduced, on average by 63 ± 15%, and there was a reduction in spontaneous activity too. This effect was blocked by co-application of the substrate for nitric oxide synthase, l-arginine, but not by the inactive d-isoform, although application of l-arginine alone was without effect. Pressure application of the nitric oxide donor S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP) elevated both visual responses and spontaneous discharge, an effect also seen with a second nitric oxide donor, sodium nitroprusside (n= 12). The nitric oxide synthase inhibitor l-nitroarginine was applied to a sub-population of seven cells and it selectively decreased NMDA mediated excitation (reduction 80 % 14%) with little or no effect on the excitation mediated by α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA) or quisqualate (effects not statistically significant), and it had no effect (n= 7) on excitation mediated by the metabotropic agonist (1S,3R)-1-aminocyclopentane-1,3-dicarboxylic acid (ACPD). Furthermore, application of SNAP also increased the magnitude of excitatory responses mediated by NMDA receptors. On a different population of seven cells, application of the new NO donor diethylamine-nitric oxide (DEA-NO) enhanced the actions Of NMDA without an effect on responses to AMPA. These effects are qualitatively and quantitatively similar to those we have previously described for X and Y type cells in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN), despite the known opposite effects of acetylcholine (ACh) application in the dLGN and PGN (ACh is co-localized with nitric oxide synthase at both sites). We propose that within the PGN nitric oxide acts to enhance transmission utilizing NMDA receptors selectively (thereby interacting with the globally inhibiting effect of ACh at this site) to enhance visual responses, reducing or removing the non-specific inhibitory drive from PGN to dLGN seen in the spindling activity of slow-wave sleep. These effects will act in concert with the facilitatory actions of both ACh and nitric oxide within the dLGN proper, and will thereby enhance the faithful transmission of visual information from retina to cortex.