Background. Although it is known that pentoxifylline (PTX) produces various beneficial effects during sepsis, it remains unknown whether this agent has any salutary effects on the depressed vascular responsiveness to adrenomedullin (ADM), a novel potent vasodilatory peptide, under such conditions. Materials and methods. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to polymicrobial sepsis by cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). One hour after CLP, PTX (50 mg/kg body wt) or vehicle (normal saline) was infused intravenously over 90 min. Twenty hours after CLP (i.e., the late, hypodynamic stage of sepsis), the thoracic aorta and small intestine were isolated and preconstricted by norepinephrine. Rat ADM (10-7 M) was applied, and the percentage of ADM-induced relaxation in the aortic rings and resistance vessels in the small intestine was determined. In addition, plasma ADM was determined by radioimmunoassay and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), interleukin (IL)-1β, and IL-6 levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results. The percentage of ADM-induced vascular relaxation in the aortic rings and resistance vessels of the isolated gut was significantly reduced 20 h after CLP. Administration of PTX early after the onset of sepsis, however, prevented the decrease in vascular ADM responsiveness at the macro, and microcirculatory levels. Plasma ADM levels increased after CLP, irrespective of PTX infusion, indicating that the effect of PTX was not mediated by altering ADM release. The upregulated TNF-α, IL- 1β, and IL-6 during late sepsis were, however, attenuated by PTX administration, suggesting that maintenance of ADM responsiveness by this agent appears to be due to downregulation of these cytokines. Conclusions. Since early administration of PTX maintains vascular ADM responsiveness even during the late stage of sepsis, this agent appears to be a useful adjunct in preventing the deterioration in hemodynamics and cardiovascular function during the progression of polymicrobial sepsis. (C) 2000 Academic Press.