1. P2X receptor activation by alpha,beta-meATP evoked inward currents in acutely dissociated rat mesenteric artery smooth muscle cells and contractions of whole artery rings. 2. The selective P2X1 and P2X3 receptor antagonist TNP-ATP inhibited P2X receptor mediated inward currents in response to 3 microM alpha,beta-meATP (an approximately EC90 concentration) with an IC50 of approximately 2 nM. This provides further evidence that the P2X receptor underlying membrane depolarisation associated with P2X receptor activation can be accounted for by the expression of P2X1 receptors. 3. TNP-ATP inhibited alpha,beta-meATP induced contractions with an IC50 of approximately 30 microM and had non-specific effects on smooth muscle contraction. 4. The reduced potency of TNP-ATP in whole tissue experiments probably reflects the breakdown of TNP-ATP by nucleotidases. Thus, TNP-ATP is of limited use in whole tissue experiments as a P2X receptor antagonist.