Studies were carried out using instrumented unanesthetized rats to determine the long-term effects of arginine vasopressin (AVP) and a specific vasopressin V1 receptor agonist (V1AG; [Phe2, Ile3, Orn8]- vasopressin) on the renal medullary blood flow and arterial blood pressure. It was hypothesized that the hypertension observed with chronic medullary infusion of a V1 receptor agonist may be associated with a sustained reduction of blood flow, whereas infusion of AVP may fail to produce a sustained reduction of blood flow and thereby be unable to produce hypertension. Uninephrectomized Sprague-Dawley rats were prepared with implanted renal cortical and medullary optical fibers for daily measurements of cortical and medullary blood flow using laser-Doppler flowmetry techniques. An implanted renal medullary interstitial infusion catheter delivered either AVP or a specific V1AG at a dose of 2 ng . kg-1 . min-1 over a period of 5 days. The V1AG produced no change of cortical blood flow but a chronic 35% reduction of medullary blood flow (P < 0.05) and mild hypertension (11 +/- 4 mmHg, P < 0.05). AVP produced only an initial, nonsignificant 1- to 2-day reduction of medullary blood flow (-13%) and failed to raise arterial pressure significantly. We conclude that a sustained V1AG response is necessary to achieve a chronic reduction of medullary blood flow and hypertension. The present data are consistent with the idea that chronic stimulation of V2 receptors by AVP offsets the vasoconstrictor and hypertension actions of AVP-induced stimulation of medullary V1 receptors.