We have investigated the effects of nitric oxide synthase inhibitor (L-NAME), nitric oxide precursor (L-arginine) and nitric oxide donor (sodium nitroprusside) on digoxin-induced arrhythmias both in guinea-pig isolated hearts and in anaesthetised animals. Sodium nitroprusside (0.1 mu mol kg(-l) min.(-1) for 70 min.) caused a marked inhibition in mortality and arrhythmia score but L-NAME (10 mg kg(-1))and L-arginine (30 mg kg(-1) intravenous bolus followed by 10 mg kg(-1) min.(-1) for 60 min.) treatments were ineffective in anaesthetised guinea-pigs. None of the drugs markedly affected the time of onset of first arrhythmias or ventricular fibrillation incidence. In isolated heart experiments, nitric oxide generated by either L-arginine (1 mM) or sodium nitroprusside (1 mM) significantly reduced the arrhythmia score whereas L-NAME (1 mM) had no effect. Ventricular fibrillation incidence was totally abolished by sodium nitroprusside and none of the hearts treated with L-arginine had an irreversible ventricular fibrillation. L-NAME decreased ventricular tachycardia duration but increased ventricular fibrillation duration. There were no marked changes in the time of onset of first arrhythmias with these drugs in in vitro experiments. These results suggest that nitric oxide may play a modulatory role in the digoxin-induced arrhythmias in guinea-pigs.