1. The role of the endothelium in mediating relaxation to acetylcholine, the calcium ionophore A23187, vasoactive intestinal peptide and peptide histidine methionine was studied using isolated human blood vessels.
2. Segments of renal, colic, pulmonary, uterine, transverse cervical, brachial, coronary and coeliac branch arteries, and saphenous veins, were obtained from surgical resection material for use in tissue bath studies.
3. Acetylcholine or A23187 produced endothelium-dependent relaxation in isolated vessels from all vascular beds studied. Coronary arteries, however, differed in their response to acetylcholine which produced predominantly a contractile response, either alone or after initial relaxation.
4. Vasoactive intestinal peptide and peptide histidine methionine produced endothelium-dependent relaxation in coeliac branch arteries. However, these peptides relaxed isolated pulmonary arteries independently of endothelium.
5. Endothelium-dependent relaxation in response to acetylcholine and A23187 was antagonized by nordihydroguaretic acid, a lipoxygenase inhibitor, and methylene blue and haemoglobin, inhibitors of soluble guanylate cyclase. In these respects the endothelium-dependent responses of human arteries to acetylcholine and A23187 resemble those described in other species.