BACKGROUND: Portal hypertension is a pathophysiological abnormality with distinct vascular derangements associated with liver cirrhosis. Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors are antidiabetic agents which exert pleiotropic vascular effects, but their relevant impact on portal hypertension and liver cirrhosis remains unclear. This study aims to clarify this issue. METHODS: Rats receiving partial portal vein ligation (PVL) and common bile duct ligation (BDL) served as experimental models for portal hypertension and cirrhosis, respectively. After linagliptin (a DPP-4 inhibitor) treatment, the survival rate, hemodynamics, biochemistry parameters and liver histopathology were evaluated. In addition, the collateral vascular responsiveness and severity of portal-systemic shunting were examined. mRNA and protein expression in the vasculature and liver were also examined. RESULTS: Linagliptin significantly reduced portal pressure (control vs linagliptin: 12.9 ± 1.2 vs 9.1 ± 2.0 mmHg, p = 0.001) and upregulated nitric oxide synthase expression in the collateral vessel, superior mesentery artery, and liver of PVL rats. However, the portal hypotensive effect was insignificant in BDL rats. Glucose plasma levels, liver and renal biochemistry parameters were not significantly altered by linagliptin. The degree of portal-systemic shunting and collateral vascular responsiveness were also not significantly altered by linagliptin treatment. Linagliptin did not improve liver fibrosis and hepatic inflammation in BDL rats. CONCLUSION: DPP-4 inhibition by linagliptin reduced portal pressure in portal hypertensive rats but not in cirrhotic rats. It may act by decreasing intrahepatic resistance via upregulation of hepatic nitric oxide synthase in portal hypertensive rats.