Normobaric hyperoxia is known to cause pulmonary hypertension with major restructuring of the walls of large and small pulmonary arteries. This study reports the effects of 21 days of exposure to 87% oxygen on the resting and active mechanical properties and structure of pulmonary arterial segments. Segments from the hilar region, extrapulmonary and proximal preacinar, and selected distal preacinar regions were studied. Resting and active (KCl-induced) tension:circumference curves were determined for each vessel. Morphometric measures were made of vessels fixed at a standard circumference using computerized planimetry. The areas of the media and adventitia as well as vessel wall thickness were increased in hyperoxic vessels. The walls of segments from the hypertensive rats demonstrated an increased stiffness based upon analysis of vessel resting tension:circumference relationships while the tangent modulus (a measure of stiffness normalized to tissue dimensions) was unchanged. Paradoxically, despite medial hypertrophy in the pulmonary vessels remodeled by hyperoxia, active tension was reduced. This study reveals that the resulting hypertensive state is not readily explained by an inherent increase in the maximal contractile capabilities of the remodeled vessel. Rather, obliteration of vessels in combination with increased resting stiffness appear to be the basis for pulmonary hypertension induced in hyperoxia.