Objective Hypertensive rats are more sensitive to the pressor effects of acute ouabain than normotensive rats. We analyzed the effect of chronic ouabain (similar to 8.0 mu g/day, 5 weeks) treatment on the blood pressure of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and Wistar-Kyoto rats and the contribution of vascular mechanisms. Methods Responses to acetylcholine and phenylephrine were analyzed in isolated tail arteries. Protein expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) were also investigated. Results Ouabain treatment enhanced blood pressure only in SHRs. The pD(2) for acetylcholine was decreased in arteries from SHRs compared with Wistar-Kyoto rats, and ouabain did not change this parameter. However, ouabain was able to increase the pD(2) to phenylephrine in SHRs. Nitric oxide synthase inhibition with N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester or potassium channel blockade by tetraetylamonium increased the response to phenylephrine in SHRs, with a smaller increase in response observed in ouabain-treated SHRs. In addition, indomethacin (a COX inhibitor) and ridogrel (a thromboxane A(2) synthase inhibitor and prostaglandin H(2)/thromboxane A(2) receptor antagonist) decreased contraction to phenylephrine in tail rings from ouabain-treated SHRs. Protein expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase was unaltered following ouabain treatment in SHRs, whereas COX-2 expression was increased. Conclusion Chronic ouabain treatment further increases the raised blood pressure of SHRs. This appears to involve a vascular mechanism, related to a reduced vasodilator influence of nitric oxide and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor and increased production of vasoconstrictor prostanoids by COX-2. These data suggest that the increased plasma levels of ouabain could play an important role in the maintenance of hypertension and the impairment of endothelial function. J Hypertens 27:1233-1242 (C) 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health vertical bar Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.