The possibility that Ca(2+)-activated Cl(-) conductances (CaCCs) contribute to oscillations in vascular tone (vasomotion) is tested in isolated mesenteric small arteries from rats where cGMP independent (I (Cl(Ca))) and cGMP-dependent (I (Cl(Ca,cGMP))) chloride conductances are important. The effect of anion substitution and Cl(-) channel blockers on noradrenaline (NA)-stimulated tension in isometrically mounted mesenteric arteries and for chloride conductance of smooth muscle cells isolated from these arteries were assessed electrophysiologically. Cl(-) (o) replacement with aspartate blocked vasomotion while 36mM SCN(-) (o) (substituted for Cl(-)) was sufficient to inhibit vasomotion. Oscillations in tone, membrane potential, and [Ca(2+)](i) disappeared with 36mM SCN(-). DIDS and Zn(2+) blocked I (Cl(Ca,cGMP)) but not I (Cl(Ca)). Vasomotion was not sensitive to DIDS and Zn(2+), and DIDS and Zn(2+) induce vasomotion in arteries without endothelium. The vasomotion in the presence of DIDS and Zn(2+) was sensitive to 36mM SCN(-) (o). The anion substitution data indicate that Cl(-) is crucial for the V (m) and [Ca(2+)](i) oscillations underlying vasomotion. The Cl(-) channel blocker data are consistent with both CaCCs being important.