Newborn rats were exposed to air or hyperoxic conditions for the first 6 days of life. Resulting effects on the pulmonary vascular bed were determined by analysis of barium angiograms, scanning electron microscopy of methylmethacrylate corrosion casts and whole lung, morphometric estimations of pulmonary arteries/area and capillary number/area, and arterial blood gas measurements. Similar studies were also performed on the lungs of animals allowed to recover in air for 1 and 2 wk. Although the general pattern of the pulmonary arterial bed by barium angiograms appeared similar, diminished branching or underfilling of the distal arterial segments was more frequently encountered in hyperoxic-exposed animals. Morphometric examination and corrosion casts revealed differences in vascular pattern and density between hyperoxia and air-exposed animals. The number of capillaries/mm2 of lung tissue was less in hyperoxic-exposed pups than controls after 6 days of exposure to hyperoxia but markedly increased to slightly above control levels by 2 wk of air recovery. The number of 20--50 micrometers size vessels/mm2 followed a similar pattern of change. Corrosion casts of lung exposed to 6 days of hyperoxia revealed less microvascular density compared to air controls, but after 1 wk recovery in air, hyperoxic-exposed animal had a more extensive network of microvessels. Maximum PaO2 attained by animals in the various groups closely resembled the patterns of change in microvessel density. These findings support the thesis that a major alteration of lung vascular growth and development occurs subsequent to exposure of the newborn to hyperoxia.