The vascular effects of synthetic atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) (rANP-99-126), and toad heart extract (THE) were examined on isolated toad aortic rings from the toad Bufo arenarum. ANP inhibited contraction produced by human angiotensin II (AT II), norepinephrine (NE), and arginine vasopressin (AVP) in isolated toad aortic rings. The present data show that a relaxant effect of ANP could be obtained also in the noncontracted aortic smooth muscle of toad if it had been previously challenged with AT II or NE and allowed to return to the original basal tension. Bufo arenarum THE was able to relax the AT II-induced contraction in toad aortic rings. In toad arteries contracted with 10(-6) M AT II, ANP produced a dose-dependent relaxation with a half-maximal inhibitory concentration IC50 of 1.2 x 10(-8) M. ANP was not effective in relaxing contraction induced by high K+. The vasorelaxant effect of ANP on AT II-induced contraction was significantly increased in Ca(2+)-free medium containing 3 mM ethylene glycol bis(beta-aminoethyl ether) N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (EGTA-Ringer) or by pretreatment with the calcium antagonist, diltiazem (DIL). The vasorelaxant effect of ANP on basal tension after treatment with AT II was also obtained in absence of extracellular calcium (EGTA-Ringer). These results show that Bufo arenarum contains ANP-like material and that the ANP relaxant action in the toad aorta is similar to that in mammals.