Recently we have found that C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) inhibits proliferation of cultured rat vascular smooth muscle cells through an elevation of cGMP. We have now tested whether administration of CNP inhibits the development of intimal lesions induced by air-drying injury in rat common carotid arteries in vivo. CNP treatment (1 microgram/kg/min, i.v. infusion) for either 14 or 5 days resulted in 70% or 60% reduction, respectively, of intimal cross-section area 14 days after injury as compared with control rats. We also found that CNP potently stimulated cGMP production in injured carotid arteries with intimal thickening, but not in intact ones. These results indicate that GC-B, CNP specific receptor/guanylyl cyclase, is expressed at the sites of vascular injury, and that CNP might be efficacious in the prevention of restenosis caused by intimal thickening following coronary angioplasty.