Results from vessel bioassays have provided the foundation for much of our understanding of the mechanisms that control vascular homeostasis and blood flow. The seminal observations that led to the discovery that nitric oxide (NO) is a critical mediator of vascular relaxation were made with the use of such methodology, and many studies have used NO-dependent vessel relaxation as an experimental readout for understanding mechanisms that regulate vascular NO function. Studies have coupled controlling oxygen tensions within vessel bioassay chambers to begin to understand how oxygen - specifically hypoxia - regulate NO function, and this context has identified red cells - specifically hemoglobin within - as critical modulators. Alone, vessel bioassays or measuring oxygen partial pressures (pO2) is relatively straightforward, but the combination necessitates consideration of several factors. We use the example of deoxygenated red cells/hemoglobin-dependent potentiation of nitrite-dependent dilation to illustrate the salient factors that are critical to consider in designing and interpreting experiments aimed at understanding the interplay between oxygen and NO function in the vasculature. Copyright 2005, Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.