1. Chronically hypoxic rats kept in 10% (v/v) O2 for 3–6 weeks, were compared with littermate control rats. Pulmonary vascular resistance, measured from the slope of the pressure-flow relationship in isolated lungs perfused with blood of normal packed cell volume was higher in chronically hypoxic than control rats even during normoxia.
2. Chronically hypoxic rats weighed less than control rats but their pulmonary vascular volume, measured with labelled albumin was similar to control rats. This, together with evidence that the number of precapillary vessels is not reduced, does not suggest a large reduction in the vascular bed in chronic hypoxia.
3. A greater vasodilator action of isoprenaline and adenosine in chronically hypoxic than control lungs suggested a higher normoxic vascular tone. This higher tone was not the sole cause of increased resistance in chronically hypoxic lungs, since maximal vasodilatation did not reduce resistance to control levels. The chief cause was probably encroachment of new muscle on the vascular lumen of small vessels.
4. Pulmonary arterial compliance was reduced in chronically hypoxic lungs.
5. Reactivity of vessels to ventilation hypoxia, over a wide range of oxygen tension, to angiotensin II (ANG II) and to adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) was significantly greater in chronically hypoxic than control lungs, but thresholds to these stimuli were not reduced.