PURPOSE: Proctitis is one of acute complications encountered when radiotherapy was applied to the pelvis. Radiation-induced proctitis represents similar microscopic findings that are observed in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Nitric oxide (NO) plays an important role in the inflammatory process and many data suggest a close relationship between NO production and gastrointestinal inflammation. This study was aimed to establish the optimal radiation dose for radiation-induced proctitis in rat and to find a relationship between radiation proctitis and NO production. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Female Wistar rats, weighing from 150 to 220 g, received various doses(10-30 Gy) of radiation to the rectum. On the 5th and 10th day after irradiation, rectal specimens were evaluated grossly and microscopically. In addition, the degree of NO production by irradiation dose was evaluated by study with NOS expression and nitrite production in the irradiated rectal tissue. To evaluate relationship between radiation proctitis and NO, we administered aminoguanidine, iNOS inhibitor and L-arginine, substrate of NOS to rats from 2 days before to 7 days after the irradiation. RESULTS: There were obvious gross and histological changes after 17.5 Gy or higher radiation dose but not with 15 Gy or less radiation dose. Twenty Gy or higher dose of radiation caused Grade 4 damage in most of rectal specimens which were more likely to be related to the late complications such as fibrosis, rectal bleeding and rectal obstruction. A single fraction of 17.5 Gy to the rat rectum is considered to be an optimal dose to produce commonly experienced proctitis in the clinic. The result demonstrated that severity of microscopic damage of rectal mucosa from irradiation significantly correlated with iNOS overexpression. However, administration of iNOS inhibitor or substrate of iNOS did not influence the degree of rectal damage. CONCLUSION: A single fraction of 17.5 Gy irradiation to the rat rectum considered to be an optimal dose for radiation induced proctitis model. These results indicated that an excess production of NO contributes to pathogenesis of radiation-induced proctitis in part but was not the direct cause of rectal damage.