The effect of intravenously administered Ginkbo biloba extract (EGb 761) on the vasospastic response to platelet activation has been assessed using a cutaneous flap preparation in anaesthetized mice. Arterioles of the axillary artery were observed by intravital microscopy, and platelets were activated by topical application of ADP under two steady state conditions: normothermia (37 degrees C) and hypothermia (24 degrees C). Responses of the cutaneous arterioles to stimulation by topical application of a thromboxane agonist (U46619) were also compared in animals treated intravenously with EGb 761 or with a thromboxane synthesis inhibitor (U63557). ADP induced a 34% constriction of the arterioles in control animals. However, no arteriolar constriction occurred in response to ADP in platelet-depleted animals (collagen-induced thrombocytopenia) or in animals treated with EGb 761 (60 mg/kg, i.v.). Exposure of the arterioles to hypothermia (24 degrees C) for 10 min induced constriction of 7-12% in all experimental groups of animals. Under these hypothermic conditions, either EGb 761 or thrombocytopenia abolished ADP-induced arteriolar constriction which was substituted by arteriolar dilation, indicating that EGb 761 can inhibit the vasospasm that is produced by platelet activation. As topically applied U46619 (10(-5) M) induced arterioles constriction (about 22%) that was abolished by intravenous treatment with EGb 761, the extract appears to act directly rather than as a thromboxane synthase inhibitor. Collectively, these findings indicate that platelet factors can play a significant role in cutaneous vasospasm, and that EGb 761, via an action on the thromboxane pathway, could be useful in treating Raynaud's phenomenon and other vascular disorders which involve increased thromboxane production.