BACKGROUND-Chronic heart failure (CHF) impairs the endothelium-dependent, flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of small arteries. However, whether chronic angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition affects the impairment of FMD in CHF is unknown. We investigated the effects of long-term ACE inhibition on the FMD of peripheral arteries in rats with CHF and the mechanism(s) involved. METHODS AND RESULTS-FMD was assessed in isolated, perfused gracilis muscle arteries from sham-operated, and untreated or ACE inhibitor-treated (perindopril 2 mg. kg(-1). day(-1) for 10 weeks) rats with CHF (coronary artery ligation). The role of nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandins, and free radicals was assessed by pretreating the vessels with the NO synthase inhibitor N(W)-nitro-L-arginine, the cyclooxygenase inhibitor diclofenac, or the free radical scavenger N-2-mercaptopropionyl-glycine (MPG). Endothelial NO synthase mRNA expression was determined by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. In animals with hemodynamic and echographic signs of CHF, FMD was converted into vasoconstriction, and this was prevented by ACE inhibition. FMD of arteries from sham-operated or ACE inhibitor-treated CHF rats was abolished by N(W)-nitro-L-arginine. In untreated CHF rats, FMD was increased by diclofenac and MPG. In contrast, in arteries from ACE inhibitor-treated rats, neither diclofenac nor MPG affected FMD. In parallel, ACE inhibition prevented the reduction of endothelial NO synthase mRNA by CHF. CONCLUSIONS-In CHF, ACE inhibition normalized NO-dependent dilatation and suppressed the production of vasoconstrictor prostanoid(s), resulting in improved FMD. The improvement of FMD might contribute to the beneficial effects of ACE inhibition during CHF.