Since the identification of nitric oxide (NO) as an important mediator of endothelium-dependent relaxation, it has become clear that there is an additional endothelial relaxant factor, termed the endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF). The identity of EDHF has remained elusive, but it is thought to be an arachidonic acid metabolite. We now report that EDHF-mediated relaxations in the rat mesenteric arterial bed are blocked by a highly selective cannabinoid receptor antagonist, SR141716A, consistent with EDHF being a cannabinoid-like substance. Furthermore, in conscious rats,. the NO-independent depressor and regional vasodilator effects of bradykinin were inhibited by SR141716A. The relaxations in the isolated mesentery were accompanied by the accumulation of an arachidonic acid metabolite, which co-eluted on TLC separation with arachidonoylethanolamide (anandamide), an endogenous cannabinoid derived from arachidonate. We further report that anandamide is a potent vasorelaxant in the mesentery, acting via a hyperpolarizing mechanism. These findings suggest that an endogenous cannabinoid is an endothelium-derived vasorelaxant, which may be EDHF.