Oxidized LDLs (Ox-LDLs) inhibit endothelium-dependent dilation of isolated conduit arteries in a manner comparable to the impairment demonstrated in atherosclerotic vessels. However, it is not known whether the microvessels, which do not develop atherosclerotic lesions, are susceptible to Ox-LDL. Since endothelial release of NO plays an important role in vasodilation and since its dysfunction associated with atherosclerosis has been shown to extend into the coronary microcirculation, we hypothesized that Ox-LDLs impair endothelium-dependent vasodilation of coronary arterioles by reducing the synthesis and/or release of NO. To test this hypothesis, porcine subepicardial vessels (50 to 100 microm) were isolated, cannulated, and pressurized to 60 cm H2O without flow for in vitro study. Isolated vessels developed basal tone and dilated in a dose-dependent manner to the endothelium-dependent vasodilators serotonin, ATP, and ionomycin. These vasodilatory responses were inhibited by the NO synthase inhibitor NG-monomethyl-L-arginine and were subsequently reversed by extraluminal administration of the NO precursor L-arginine (3 mmol/L), suggesting the involvement of NO in these vasomotor responses. Intraluminal incubation of the vessels with native LDL (N-LDL) or Ox-LDL (1 mg protein/mL) significantly attenuated dilations to serotonin, ATP, and ionomycin. Ox-LDL produced more severe inhibition than did N-LDL, and the inhibitory effect was comparable to that of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine. The inhibitory effects of N-LDL and Ox-LDL were reversed by exogenous L-arginine (3 mmol/L) and were prevented by sodium dihydroxybenzene disulfonate (Tiron), a cell-permeable superoxide scavenger. In contrast, administration of the cell-impermeable superoxide scavenger superoxide dismutase prevented the inhibitory effect of N-LDL but not of Ox-LDL. In addition, the inhibitory effects of LDL were not restored by D-arginine or by removal of intraluminal LDL. Neither N-LDL nor Ox-LDL altered endothelium-independent vasodilation to sodium nitroprusside. These results indicate that coronary arterioles are susceptible to LDLs that specifically impair endothelium-dependent vasodilation by reducing NO synthesis. It is suggested that the initiation of superoxide anion production and the subsequent L-arginine deficiency may be responsible for the detrimental effect of LDL.