1. The effect of a small increase in local plasma calcium concentration on the responsiveness of the forearm resistance vessels to verapamil has been examined in normal subjects, by using a plethysmographic method with infusion of calcium and other agents into the brachial artery.
2. Infusion of calcium at a rate which increased the concentration in forearm venous blood by about 0.5 mmol/l caused basal blood flow to fall by 19% and the dilator response to verapamil to fall by 35% (n = 8; P<0.02).
3. When, after 46 min, the infusion of calcium was discontinued, the dilator response to verapamil increased to reach a level 53% higher than the initial control (n = 8; P<0.02).
4. Infusion of calcium had no effect on the dilator response to sodium nitroprusside.
5. Infusion of noradrenaline at a rate which caused a greater reduction in basal flow than that induced by calcium had no effect on the response to verapamil.
6. It is concluded that the dilator response to verapamil, which is thought to reflect activity of the potential operated system for calcium entry, is selectively depressed by a small elevation of plasma calcium concentration, but subsequently becomes elevated. These findings point to an important role for calcium in the regulation of membrane function in the resistance vessels and support the view that altered calcium handling may contribute to the development of primary hypertension.