The effects of exercise training were investigated on the vascular responses in the isolated guinea-pig saphenous artery. Exercising animals swam 5 days week-1 for 6 weeks (60 min day-1 for weeks 1 and 2; 75 min day-1 for weeks 3 and 4; 90 min day-1 for weeks 5 and 6), while control animals were placed into shallow water for the same duration. Trained animals had significantly higher ventricular:body weight ratios, increased citrate synthase activity in the latissimus dorsi, and enhanced Na+ pump concentrations in the latissimus dorsi and gastrocnemius muscles (P < 0.05). In vitro isometric techniques were used to measure constriction and relaxation responses of saphenous artery rings from trained and control animals. There were no significant differences in the constriction responses to KCl (50 mM) and phenylephrine (0.3-100 μM) in arterial rings from control versus trained animals. Relaxation responses to acetylcholine (10 mM; ACh-relaxation), following preconstriction with phenylephrine (10 μM), were significantly enhanced in rings from trained animals (P < 0.05). Acetylcholine relaxed the vessels to 47 ± 6% (control) and 18 ± 3% (trained) of the preconstriction responses to phenylephrine. The nitric oxide synthase inhibitor NC-nitro-L-arginine (L-NA; 50 μM) significantly attenuated the ACh-relaxation in control and trained animals (P < 0.05). The effect of L-NA on the ACh-relaxation was significantly larger in trained (change in ACh-relaxation with L-NA = 29 ± 9%) than control (14 ± 3%) animals (P < 0.05). In conclusion, exercise training enhanced the ACh-relaxation of the isolated guinea-pig saphenous artery. Inhibition of nitric oxide synthase attenuated the ACh-relaxation of rings from control and trained animals, but this effect was significantly larger in the vessels from trained animals. These results are consistent with the idea that nitric oxide could contribute to the enhanced ACh-relaxation of the saphenous artery with exercise training.