Microvascular remodeling contributes to increased cardiovascular risk in hypertension. The dual angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) and neutral endopeptidase (NEP) inhibitor omapatrilat improves small artery remodeling in hypertension. The aim of the present study was to compare effects of omapatrilat to the ACE inhibitor fosinopril and the AT(1) antagonist irbesartan on the coronary microvasculature in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). Ten-week-old SHR were treated for 10 weeks with omapatrilat (20 or 40 mg/kg/d), irbesartan (50 mg/kg/d), or fosinopril (20 mg/kg/d). Arterioles and capillaries were identified in the myocardium by immunolabeling. After 10 weeks, systolic blood pressure (BP) was significantly reduced in treated versus untreated SHR (P <.01). Myocardial arteriolar density/mm(2) was higher (P <.05) in untreated SHR versus Wistar-Kyoto (WKY), and was reduced by omapatrilat (at both high and low doses) and by fosinopril (P <.01). Irbesartan decreased only subepicardial arteriolar density (P <.05). Myocardial capillary density/mm(2) was decreased in untreated SHR versus WKY (P <.01), associated with increase in cardiomyocyte cross-sectional area and cardiomyocyte-to-capillary ratio, and a decrease in myocyte density. Omapatrilat (at both high and low doses) resulted in increased capillary density, decreased myocyte hypertrophy and cardiomyocyte to capillary ratio, and increased myocyte density (P <.01). Fosinopril and irbesartan reduced myocyte hypertrophy of SHR, but had no effect on capillary density. Dual ACE/NEP inhibition was more effective than ACE inhibition or AT(1) antagonism in improving microvascular and cardiomyocyte remodeling in the hypertensive heart. This suggests a role for NEP inhibition added to blockade of the renin-angiotensin system that may explain the greater efficacy of omapatrilat.