We have previously reported that in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats that increased formation of superoxide and peroxynitrite is associated with impairment in vascular relaxation in epineurial arterioles of the sciatic nerve. In this study we demonstrate that pretreating epineurial arterioles from diabetic rats in vitro with alpha-lipoic acid, dihydrolipoic acid, tempol or arginine restores acetylcholine-mediated vascular relaxation to near the reactivity observed in vessels from control rats. Suggesting that increased oxidative stress and reduction in nitric oxide availability is partially responsible for the impairment in endothelium-dependent vasodilation observed in epineurial arterioles from diabetic rats. In contrast, pretreating epineurial arterioles from diabetic rats with aminoguanidine or allopurinol had no effect. Studies designed to investigate the source of superoxide formation provided results suggesting that complex I of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and NAD(P)H oxidase are responsible for the increase in superoxide formation observed with epineurial arterioles from the sciatic nerve. Pretreating epineurial arterioles from diabetic rats with the protein kinase C inhibitor bisindolymaleimide I (GF 109203X) improved acetylcholine-mediated vascular relaxation but did not prevent the increase in superoxide formation suggesting that activation of protein kinase C by oxidative stress is downstream of superoxide formation. These studies imply that increased superoxide formation via the mitochondrial electron transport chain and perhaps NAD(P)H oxidase is partially responsible for reduced vascular reactivity observed in epineurial arterioles of the sciatic nerve from diabetic rats.