The responses of rabbit resistance arteries to pressure and flow have been examined using two in vitro techniques--when mounted isometrically in a myograph and when perfused using a video system that automatically registers diameter. The latter approach allows pressure and flow to be independently controlled. Under such circumstances three responses were studied; myogenic contraction and flow-dependent constriction and dilation. All responses occurred after endothelium removal and were unaffected by indomethacin (10(-60 M). The pressure and flow effects can be elicited separately and have different ionic bases. The effective stimulus for the myogenic response is stretch and that for flow is presumably shear stress. The mechano-transducers for these effects are different and are located either in the vascular smooth muscle cells or their surrounding extracellular matrix.