The present study investigates whether neuronal type nitric oxide synthase (N-NOS) in the macula densa participates in the regulation of renal renin expression during altered dietary salt intake in angiotensinogen gene-knockout (Atg-/-) mice. Wild-type (Atg+/+) and Atg+/+ mice were fed a low-salt (0.04% NaCl), normal-salt (0.3% NaCl), or high-salt (4% NaCl) diet for 2 wk. Histochemical staining for NADPH diaphorase (NADPHd) and renin were analyzed morphometrically. Levels of N-NOS and renin mRNA in renal cortical tissues were determined by reverse transcription-PCR and Northern blot analysis, respectively. In animals fed a normal-salt diet, the renal expressions of N-NOS and renin were markedly increased in Atg-/- mice compared with Atg+/+ mice. When mutant mice were fed a high-salt diet, the signal intensity of the NADPHd reaction and the number of positively stained macula densa cells were significantly decreased. The levels of renal cortical N-NOS mRNA were also suppressed by the treatment. These changes were paralleled by decreases in renal renin-immunoreactive areas and the levels of renin mRNA. On the other hand, salt restriction did not produce further significant increases in the renal N-NOS and renin expressions in mutant mice, whereas a parallel inverse relationship was observed between these enzyme expressions and the levels of salt intake in wild-type mice. These results suggest that the N-NOS expression in the macula densa is inversely regulated by salt intake and that the enzyme activity is functionally linked to renal renin production. Salt-modulated renal N-NOS and renin expressions are independent on angiotensin formation in Atg-/- mice.