We have previously shown that age-related reduction of innervation and function in mesenteric perivascular calcitonin gene-related peptide-containing vasodilator nerves takes place in spontaneously hypertensive rats. The present study was performed to investigate innervation and functional changes in perivascular calcitonin gene-related peptide- and adrenergic neuropeptide Y-containing nerves after topical treatment with phenol, which damages nerve fibers, around the rat superior mesenteric artery. Under pentobarbital-Na anesthesia, 8-week-old Wistar rats underwent in vivo topical application of phenol (10% phenol in 90% ethanol) or saline (sham rats) to the superior mesenteric artery proximal to the bifurcation of the abdominal aorta. After the treatment, the animals were subjected to immunohistochemistry of the 3rd branch of small arteries proximal to the intestine and to vascular responsiveness testing on day 3 through day 14. The innervation levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide-like immunoreactivity containing fibers and neuropeptide Y-like immunoreactivity containing fibers were markedly reduced on day 3 to day 14 and on day 5 to day 14 after the treatment, compared with those in sham-operated rats, respectively. In perfused mesenteric vascular beds isolated from phenol-treated rats, adrenergic nerve-mediated vasoconstriction and calcitonin gene-related peptide nerve-mediated vasodilation in response to periarterial nerve stimulation (2-12 Hz) were significantly decreased on day 3 and day 7. Neurogenic release of norepinephrine in phenol-treated rats on day 7 was significantly smaller that that in sham-operated rats. Nerve growth factor content in the mesenteric arteries of phenol-treated rats was significantly lower than that in sham-operated rats. Administration of nerve growth factor using osmotic mini-pumps for 7 days after the phenol treatment resulted in greater density of calcitonin gene-related peptide- and neuropeptide Y-like immunoreactivity fibers than in phenol-treated rats and restored decreased vascular responses to periarterial nerve stimulation. These results suggest that topical phenol-treatment of the mesenteric artery effectively induces functional denervation of perivascular nerves, which can be prevented or reversed by nerve growth factor treatment.