Experiments were designed to determine how changes in the ratio of specific vascular endothelium-derived factors might affect reactivity of bronchial smooth muscle. The epithelium was mechanically removed from rings of third-order canine bronchi, and the rings were suspended in organ chambers for measurement of isometric force. Rings of pulmonary artery were cut; in some the endothelium was mechanically removed. The arterial rings were everted and pairs, with and without endothelium, were incubated with control solution, N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA), indomethacin, or both L-NMMA and indomethacin for 90 min. They were then inserted into the lumen of the bronchial rings. Cumulative concentration-response curves to acetylcholine and 5-hydroxytryptamine were obtained. There was no significant difference in response between bronchi containing arteries with or without endothelium incubated with control solution. Contractions of bronchi containing arteries without endothelium, incubated in either L-NMMA or indomethacin, increased from control. However, in rings containing arteries with endothelium, incubation with either inhibitor decreased bronchial contractions. Incubation with both inhibitors eliminated the difference. These results suggest that the vascular endothelium produces factors that can both contract and relax bronchial smooth muscle. With inhibition of production of either nitric oxide with L-NMMA or prostanoids with indomethacin, release of other endothelium- derived factors occurs that attenuates contractions of bronchial smooth muscle. Therefore, an imbalance in the ratio of production of endothelium- derived factors may contribute to bronchospastic disorders.