To investigate the influence of diabetes mellitus on vascular relaxation response, acetylcholine (ACh)-induced relaxation and production of cyclic GMP and cyclic AMP in aortic rings with endothelium were compared between alloxan-induced diabetic and control rabbits. ACh-induced relaxation was significantly attenuated in the aortic rings of diabetic rabbits. Concentration-response curve for ACh-induced relaxation in the aortic rings of control rabbits was shifted to the right by the pretreatment with hemoglobin, and this concentration-response curve was almost identical to that in the aorta from diabetic rabbits. Sodium nitroprusside (SNP)-induced relaxation in the aortic rings without endothelium from diabetic rabbits was similar to that in the aortic rings without endothelium from control rabbits. Basal levels of cyclic GMP and ACh-induced production of cyclic GMP were markedly lower in diabetic rabbits than those in control rabbits. On the other hand, there were no differences in basal and ACh-induced production of cyclic AMP between diabetic and control aorta. These results suggest that impairment of endothelium but not guanylate cyclase activity may be occurred in the aorta of diabetic rabbits. This impairment leads to the decrease in production of cyclic GMP through the attenuation of endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF) release, and this may be responsible for the decreased endothelium-dependent relaxation of ACh.