The effect of the arginine analogue, N omega-nitro-L-arginine (L-NNA) was studied on bradykinin-induced relaxation in porcine coronary arteries. In the presence of indomethacin (3 x 10(-6) M) and captopril (10(-6) M), treatment with L-NNA (10(-4) M) had no effect on the bradykinin-induced (10(-10)-10(-7) M) relaxations in strips contracted with U-46619. In contrast to the findings in organ chamber experiments, bradykinin-induced release of endothelium-derived relaxing factor(s) (EDRFs) was abolished after 45 min of treatment of perfused porcine coronary artery segments with L-NNA (10(-4) M) in a superfusion bioassay system. These results show that, in addition to the release of nitric oxide, endothelium-dependent relaxation of porcine coronary arteries to bradykinin involves an alternative mechanism(s), which accounts for the relaxation in the presence of L-NNA. Since the release of a relaxing mediator could not be detected from L-NNA-treated porcine coronary artery segments under bioassay conditions, it is postulated that either no diffusible factor(s) is involved in the L-NNA-insensitive endothelium-dependent relaxation, or it is mediated by an extremely labile endothelium-derived substance(s).