Stimulation of nitric oxide-cGMP signaling results in vascular relaxation and increased muscle glucose uptake. We show that chronically inhibiting cGMP hydrolysis with the phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor sildenafil improves energy balance and enhances in vivo insulin action in a mouse model of diet-induced insulin resistance. High-fat-fed mice treated with sildenafil plus L-arginine or sildenafil alone for 12 weeks had reduced weight and fat mass due to increased energy expenditure. However, uncoupling protein-1 levels were not increased in sildenafil-treated mice. Chronic treatment with sildenafil plus L-arginine or sildenafil alone increased arterial cGMP levels but did not adversely affect blood pressure or cardiac morphology. Sildenafil treatment, with or without l-arginine, resulted in lower fasting insulin and glucose levels and enhanced rates of glucose infusion, disappearance, and muscle glucose uptake during a hyperinsulinemic (4 mU x kg(-1) x min(-1))-euglycemic clamp in conscious mice. These effects occurred without an increase in activation of muscle insulin signaling. An acute treatment of high fat-fed mice with sildenafil plus l-arginine did not improve insulin action. These results show that phosphodiesterase-5 is a potential target for therapies aimed at preventing diet-induced energy imbalance and insulin resistance.