- Peroxides and other reactive oxygen species damage arteries during ischemia-reperfusion. Here, we report on the effects of H(2)O(2) on contractility of pig coronary artery. We either treated 3-mm coronary artery rings with 0 to 0.5 mM H(2)O(2) in organ baths or we perfused the arteries with H(2)O(2) and then cut them into rings. In each instance, we monitored the force of contraction of 3-mm rings in H(2)O(2)-free solution with 30 mM KCl and then we determined the A23187 induced endothelium dependent relaxation as a percent of this contraction. Treatment with H(2)O(2) in the organ bath caused a decrease in the contraction but it did not affect the percent relaxation. Treating arteries with H(2)O(2) by luminal perfusion did not affect the contraction but it decreased the percent relaxation. Perfusion alone decreased the amount of endothelium remaining in the arteries and perfusing with H(2)O(2) decreased it further. The percent relaxation with A23187 correlated well with the endothelium remaining in the arteries. We propose that H(2)O(2) and shear stress can cause a loss of endothelium and that endothelium can also protect the underlying smooth muscle against luminal H(2)O(2).