The vasorelaxant profile of quercetin 3,7-dimethyl ether, a flavonoid isolated from Croton schiedeanus Schlecht (Euphorbiaceae), was assessed in aortic rings isolated from Wistar rats. To gain insight into its structure-activity relationship, we compared this substance with quercetin 3,4',7-trimethyl ether (ayanin), another flavonoid isolated from this plant, quercetin 3,3',4',7-tetramethyl ether, a flavonoid synthesized by us, and quercetin. In addition we examined the interaction of quercetin 3,7-dimethyl ether with the nitric oxide (NO)/cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) pathway. According to their pEC50 values (concentration producing a 50% inhibition of the maximal contractile response) to phenylephrine-induced precontraction in rat isolated aorta, the potency order was quercetin 3,7-dimethyl ether > quercetin > quercetin 3,4',7-trimethyl ether > quercetin 3,3',4',7-tetramethyl ether (4.70+/-0.18; 3.96+/-0.07; 3.64+/-0.02; 3.11+/-0.16). The relaxant effect of quercetin 3,7-dimethyl ether was significantly decreased by the removal of endothelium as well as by methylene blue, an inhibitor of guanylyl cyclase, and by N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester hydrochloride (L-NAME), an NO-synthase inhibitor. Therefore, quercetin 3,7-dimethyl ether has a NO/cGMP pathway-related profile, with increased vasorelaxant activity due to hydroxylation at positions 3 and 4 of the B ring. In addition, methylation at positions 3 and 7 with respect to quercetin of the C and A rings, respectively, seems to further enhance the vasorelaxant activity of quercetin 3,7-dimethyl ether.