We have previously reported that there is an altered response to mast cell-mediated inflammation in copper-deficient rats. In the current study we determined the microvascular reactivity to inflammatory stimuli with lipopolysacccharide (LPS) during dietary copper restriction. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed purified diets which were either copper-adequate (CuA, 6 micrograms Cu/g) or copper-deficient (CuD, 0.4 micrograms Cu/g) for 4 weeks. Rats were anesthetized and the cremaster muscle was prepared for in vivo television microscopy. Arteriolar diameters were measured and then 2.5 mg/kg LPS was injected i.p. In separate groups, animals were pretreated with the NO-synthase inhibitor L-NAME (2 x 10(-4) M), the cyclooxygenase inhibitor ibuprofen (9.6 x 10(-5) M) or the histamine receptor antagonist diphenhydramine (DPH, 10(-6) M). LPS caused arteriolar dilation in both dietary groups with the response being significantly greater in the CuD group. Ibuprofen and DPH but not L-NAME, each significantly reduced but did not block the dilation in the CuD group. Ibuprofen and DPH together blocked the dilation. These results suggest that dietary copper deficiency increases arteriolar dilation to LPS. The mechanism appears to involve a greater response to arachidonic acid metabolites and histamine but not NO.