Endothelial dysfunction has been reported to be the initial step in atherosclerosis. A noninvasive technique that uses ultrasound to measure the intima-media thickness of the carotid artery has been applied to evaluate localized atherosclerosis. This study was undertaken to elucidate whether endothelial dysfunction in the brachial artery is related to the intima-media thickness of the carotid artery. Thirty-four men with atherosclerosis (mean+/-SE age 61+/-2 years) and 33 age-matched men without clinical atherosclerosis were examined. The intima-media thickness and plaque formation of the common carotid artery were assessed by B-mode ultrasonography. We also noninvasively measured brachial artery diameter by the same ultrasound machine when the subjects were at rest, during reactive hyperemia, which causes endothelium-dependent vasodilatation, and after sublingual administration of nitroglycerin, which causes endothelium-independent vasodilatation. The atherosclerosis group had a significantly greater intima-media thickness of the common carotid artery than did the control group (1. 02+/-0.04 versus 0.91+/-0.03 mm, P<0.05). The flow-mediated diameter (FMD) increase (percent FMD=DeltaD/D x 100) in the atherosclerosis group was significantly smaller than that in the control group (2. 8+/-0.4% versus 5.1+/-0.6%, P<0.01). A significant negative correlation between the intima-media thickness of the carotid artery and percent FMD was found in all of the subjects. On multiple regression analysis, percent FMD showed a significant negative correlation with the intima-media thickness of the common carotid artery. These findings support the concept that endothelial dysfunction is significantly related to atherogenesis.