Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play a critical role in the impairment of nitric oxide-mediated vascular functions and overall pathogenesis associated with cardiovascular disease. Plant pigment anthocyanins are exceptionally potent oxygen radical scavengers that produce beneficial effects in diseases outside the cardiovascular system. We examined for the first time the potential coronary vasoactive and vasoprotective properties of three anthocyanin enhanced extracts prepared from chokeberry (Ck), bilberry (B), or elderberry (E). Coronary arterial rings were isolated from 64 pigs and incubated in sterile tissue culture media overnight for use in one of four separate in vitro isometric force recording studies. Ck and B, but not E, produced dose- and endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation. (%maximal relaxation at 5 mg total anthocyanins per liter: Ck = 68 +/- 11, B = 59 +/- 10). Coronary vascular tone, endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation to A23187, and vasorelaxation to DEA NONOate were not affected by exposure of rings to any extract at 0.05 mg total anthocyanins per liter for 5 or 30 min. Ck extract at 0.05 mg total anthocyanins per liter showed the greatest protection against loss of A23187 relaxation following exposure to ROS from pyrogallol (Ck, % maximal relaxation and -logED50 to A23187, respectively, means +/- SE: Ck alone, 93 +/- 5%, 7.91 +/- 0.1; pyrogallol alone, 76 +/- 7%, 7.46 +/- 0.06; pyrogallol + Ck, 98 +/- 1%, 7.82 +/- 0.06; control: 99 +/- 1%, 7.86 +/- 0.07; P < 0.05 control vs. pyrogallol alone). Neither the extracts nor pyrogallol affected responses to DEA NONOate. Thus anthocyanin-enhanced extracts produce endothelium-dependent relaxation in porcine coronary arteries. Extract concentrations too low to directly alter coronary vascular tone protect coronary arteries from ROS without altering vasorelaxation to endogenous or exogenous NO. These results suggest that such extracts could have significant beneficial effects in vascular disease.