Endothelial cells synthesize and metabolize vasoactive substances which are involved in the regulation of vascular tone. Among these factors, the endothelium-derived nitric oxide (NO) appears to be of major importance. Many studies observed an impairment of the generation, release, or the diffusion of endothelial NO across the vascular intima in laboratory animals with various experimental diseases such as hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis and hypertension. In human coronary arteries obtained from explanted hearts impaired endothelium-dependent relaxations were measured in atherosclerotic segments. The hypothesis of a decreased NO mediated vasodilation in patients with coronary artery disease was further underscored by in vivo studies in man using intracoronary infusions of the endothelium-dependent vasodilator acetylcholine and quantitative coronary angiographic measurements of the diameter changes. From these observations it was assumed that endothelial dysfunction, in particular a profound inability of the coronary endothelium to relax via NO dependent mechanisms may play an important role in the pathogenesis of abnormal coronary vasomotion. However, further investigations in man reveal that the ability of the coronary endothelium of patients with coronary artery disease or vasospastic angina to produce endothelial NO is less affected as judged from the effects of acetylcholine. In recent investigations a largely preserved endothelial function could be measured in these patients when the endothelium-dependent vasodilator substance P was used as a tool for the measurement of NO dependent relaxation. Thus, endothelial dysfunction does not appear to serve as a major cause of abnormal vasoconstriction in coronary artery disease or vasospastic angina in man.