We examined the effects of superoxide anion (O) generated by xanthine plus xanthine oxidase (X/XO) on the intracellular Ca(2+) concentration ([Ca(2+)](i)) and muscle contractility in cultured bovine aortic smooth muscle cells (BASMC). Cells were grown on collagen-coated dish for the measurement of [Ca(2+)](i). Pretreatment with X/XO inhibited ATP-induced Ca(2+) transient and Ca(2+) release-activated Ca(2+) entry (CRAC) after thapsigargin-induced store depletion, both of which were reversed by superoxide dismutase (SOD). In contrast, Ca(2+) transients induced by high-K(+) solution and Ca(2+) ionophore A-23187 were not affected by X/XO. BASMC-embedded collagen gel lattice, which was pretreated with xanthine alone, showed contraction in response to ATP, thapsigargin, high-K(+) solution, and A-23187. Pretreatment of the gel with X/XO impaired gel contraction not only by ATP and thapsigargin, but also by high-K(+) solution and A-23187. The X/XO-treated gel showed normal contraction; however, when SOD was present during the pretreatment period. These results indicate that O(2)(-) attenuates smooth muscle contraction by impairing CRAC, ATP-induced Ca(2+) transient, and Ca(2+) sensitivity in BASMC.