Angiotensin II causes vasoconstriction via the type 1 receptor (AT(1)R) and vasodilatation through the type 2 receptor (AT(2)R). Both are expressed in muscle microvasculature, where substrate exchanges occur. Whether they modulate basal muscle microvascular perfusion and substrate metabolism is not known. We measured microvascular blood volume (MBV), a measure of microvascular surface area and perfusion, in rats during systemic infusion of angiotensin II at either 1 or 100 ng/kg per minute. Each caused a significant increase in muscle MBV. Likewise, administration of the AT(1)R blocker losartan increased muscle MBV by >3-fold (P<0.001). Hindleg glucose extraction and muscle interstitial oxygen saturation simultaneously increased by 2- to 3-fold. By contrast, infusing AT(2)R antagonist PD123319 significantly decreased muscle MBV by >or=80% (P<0.001). This was associated with a significant decrease in hindleg glucose extraction and muscle oxygen saturation. AT(2)R antagonism and inhibition of NO synthase each blocked the losartan-induced increase in muscle MBV and glucose uptake. In conclusion, angiotensin II acts on both AT(1)R and AT(2)R to regulate basal muscle microvascular perfusion. Basal AT(1)R tone restricts muscle MBV and glucose extraction, whereas basal AT(2)R activity increases muscle MBV and glucose uptake. Pharmacological manipulation of the balance of AT(1)R and AT(2)R activity affords the potential to improve glucose metabolism.