1. The site(s) at which P2-receptor agonists act to evoke contractions of the rat isolated tail artery was studied by use of P2-receptor antagonists and the extracellular ATPase inhibitor 6-N,N-diethyl-D-beta,gamma-dibromomethyleneATP (ARL 67156). 2. Suramin (1 microM(-1) mM) and pyridoxalphosphate-6-azophenyl-2',4'-disulphonic acid (PPADS) (0.3-300 microM) inhibited contractions evoked by equi-effective concentrations of alpha,beta-methyleneATP (alpha,beta-meATP) (5 microM), 2-methylthioATP (2-meSATP) (100 microM) and adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) (1 mM) in a concentration-dependent manner. Responses to alpha,beta-meATP and 2-meSATP were abolished, but approximately one third of the peak response to ATP was resistant to suramin and PPADS. 3. Contractions evoked by uridine 5'-triphosphate (UTP) (1 mM) were slightly inhibited by suramin (100 and 300 microM) and potentiated by PPADS (300 microM). 4. Desensitization of the P2X1-receptor by alpha,beta-meATP abolished contractions evoked by 2-meSATP (100 microM) and reduced those to ATP (1 mM) and UTP (1 mM) to 15+/-3% and 68+/-4% of control. 5. Responses to alpha,beta-meATP (5 microM) and 2-meSATP (100 microM) were abolished when tissues were bathed in nominally calcium-free solution, while the peak contractions to ATP (1 mM) and UTP (1 mM) were reduced to 24+/-6% and 61+/-13%, respectively, of their control response. 6. ARL 67156 (3-100 microM) potentiated contractions elicited by UTP (1 mM), but inhibited responses to alpha,beta-meATP (5 microM), 2-meSATP (100 microM) and ATP (1 mM) in a concentration-dependent manner. 7. These results suggest that two populations of P2-receptors are present in the rat tail artery; ligand-gated P2X1-receptors and G-protein-coupled P2Y-receptors.