We have recently proposed that anandamide, or a related cannabinoid, is the endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF) and have now compared EDHF-mediated responses (induced by carbachol in the presence of both nitric oxide and prostanoid synthesis inhibitors) with those induced by anandamide in the rat isolated superior mesenteric arterial bed. Both EDHF-mediated and anandamide-induced relaxations were inhibited in the presence of high K+ (60 mM) and opposed by blockade of K+ channels with 10 mM tetraethylammonium. The cytochrome P450 inhibitors, and putative EDHF inhibitors, clotrimazole (10 microM) and proadifen (SKF 525A) (10 microM), opposed both anandamide-induced and EDHF-mediated relaxations and also relaxant responses to the K+ channel activator levcromakalim. Therefore, EDHF-mediated and anandamide-induced vasorelaxations show very similar pharmacological characteristics, with both responses being mediated via K+ channel activation. Further, the actions of EDHF and anandamide are both sensitive to proadifen and clotrimazole, EDHF antagonists which appear to act through K+ channel inhibition. Accordingly, these results support our proposal that an endocannabinoid is an EDHF.