The extract of Crataegus, a mixture of flavonoids and procyanidins extracted from hawthorn, Crataegus oxyacantha, L. and C. monogyna Jacq., relaxed vascular tone or increased production of cyclic GMP in the rat aorta, but flavonoid components of Crataegus extract, hyperoside, rutin and vitexin, did not affect the vascular tone. The aim of the present study was to characterize the endothelium-dependent relaxation elicited by procyanidins fractionated from Crataegus extract in isolated rat aorta. Procyanidins caused endothelium-dependent relaxation which was associated with the production of cyclic GMP. Both responses to these procyanidins were inhibited by methylene blue or N(G)-nitro-L-arginine, but not by indomethacin. Relaxation in response to procyanidins was not affected by atropine, diphenhydramine, [D-Pro2,D-Trp7,9]substance P, propranolol, nifedipine, verapamil and glibenclamide, but were markedly reduced by tetraethylammonium. These findings showed that procyanidins in Crataegus extract may be responsible for the endothelium-dependent nitric oxide-mediated relaxation in isolated rat aorta, possibly via activation of tetraethylammonium-sensitive K+ channels.