Obesity and insulin resistance are strongly associated with an increased risk of vascular disease. Vasomotion is the cyclic variation in the diameter of arteries and is a general feature of the vasculature that may have important physiological consequences. We tested the hypothesis that obesity - insulin resistance is associated with abnormal vasomotion by comparing obese, insulin-resistant JCR:LA-cp rats, known to develop vasculopathy, atherosclerosis, and ischemic lesions of the heart, with lean insulin-sensitive animals from the same strain. Vasomotion was assessed using isolated mesenteric arteries on a myograph system after preconstriction to 50% of maximal constriction with norepinephrine. The amplitude of vasomotion was enhanced by the presence of meclofenamate, a prostaglandin H synthase inhibitor, and was diminished by N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor. Removal of the endothelium essentially abolished vasomotion, and meclofenamate had no effect on de-endothelialized arteries. Frequency was not altered by either L-NAME or meclofenamate. Although pharmacological inhibition of nitric oxide and eicosanoid production clearly altered vasomotion, there was no difference in the amplitude or frequency of vasomotion in arteries from obese rats compared with lean rats. These results indicate that the endothelium plays a central role in modulating vasomotion, involving both enhancing and inhibiting effects, and that vasomotion is similar between obese, insulin-resistant and lean, insulin-sensitive rats.