The role of the endothelium in response to aggregating platelets was examined in porcine coronary and peripheral (carotid, femoral and renal) arteries from normal and hypercholesterolemic pigs. Male Yorkshire pigs were fed either a normal diet or a 2% high cholesterol diet for 10 weeks. Endothelium-dependent responses were examined in vitro. In all arteries from control animals, aggregating platelets caused endothelium-dependent relaxations, which were augmented by ketanserin (a 5-HT2-serotonergic blocker), attenuated by apyrase (an adenosine diphosphatase and triphosphatase) or methiothepin (a combined 5-HT1 and 5-HT2-serotonergic blocker) and were almost abolished by a combination of apyrase and methiothepin. The platelet-induced relaxations were most pronounced in the coronary arteries. Adenosine diphosphate caused endothelium-dependent relaxations, which were significantly attenuated by apyrase. Serotonin also caused endothelium-dependent relaxations, which were significantly attenuated by methiothepin but augmented by ketanserin. The endothelium-dependent relaxations to adenosine diphosphate were most pronounced in coronary arteries and those to serotonin in coronary and renal arteries. In cholesterol-fed animals, the endothelium-dependent relaxations to aggregating platelets, adenosine diphosphate and serotonin were impaired in all four arteries. These experiments indicate that 1) the endothelium exerts inhibitory effects against aggregating platelets in porcine coronary and peripheral arteries; 2) platelet-induced endothelium-dependent relaxations are achieved by purinergic and 5-HT1-serotonergic receptors on the endothelium; and 3) hypercholesterolemia reduces the endothelium-dependent relaxations to aggregating platelets in a generalized manner because it impairs the relaxations to adenosine diphosphate and serotonin released from the platelets.