Calcitonin gene-related peptide has been demonstrated in urinary bladder nerves, and suggested to play a role in local control of bladder motility. In isolated strips of pig detrusor muscle, calcitonin gene-related peptide did not affect spontaneous contractile activity, or contractions induced by high K+, carbachol, substance P, and electrical field stimulation. In contrast, calcitonin gene-related peptide elicited a concentration-dependent and pronounced (78-99%) relaxation of vesical arteries precontracted with endothelin-1, noradrenaline or prostaglandin F2 alpha. As a vasodilator, CGRP was approximately 50 times more potent than acetylcholine. Removal of the endothelium abolished acetylcholine-induced relaxation, but did not affect the relaxation produced by calcitonin gene-related peptide. Pretreatment with methylene blue, glibenclamide or indomethacin had no influence on CGRP's ability to relax the vessels. The inhibitor of NO-synthesis, NG-nitro-L-arginine, had no effect on the maximum vascular relaxation induced by calcitonin gene-relate peptide. It is concluded that in the pig, calcitonin gene-related peptide has no functionally important mechanical effects on isolated detrusor muscle strips, but is a potent dilator of vesical arteries. The vascular effects of the peptide are endothelium-independent, and seem to be exerted directly on the vascular smooth muscle.