In order to obtain direct information about vascular changes associated with pre-eclampsia, the morphological and functional characteristics of isolated omental resistance vessels from 11 women with pre-eclampsia, 10 normotensive pregnant women and eight normotensive non-pregnant women were determined. In vessels from the women with pre-eclampsia, the ratio of media thickness to lumen diameter was increased, compared with that in vessels from the other two groups. The vessels from the women with pre-eclampsia had an increased responsiveness to angiotensin II and a decreased rate of relaxation, but only when compared with the vessels from the normotensive pregnant women. However, no difference in responsiveness to noradrenaline was found between any of the groups. The angiotensin II responsiveness of the vessels from the women with pre-eclampsia and from the non-pregnant women were similar, suggesting that pre-eclampsia is associated with an absence of the change in vascular function which normally occurs during pregnancy. The study provides direct evidence for an involvement of vascular abnormalities in the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia.