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We have investigated the relaxant effects of propofol on smooth muscle tension in human omental arteries and veins to determine if endothelium-related mechanisms are involved. Isolated vessel segments were precontracted with endothelin-1 and propofol was added cumulatively (10(-7)-10(-4) mol litre-1). In both artery and vein segments, propofol induced relaxation, which was not dependent on an intact endothelium. Relaxation was reduced when the extracellular K+ concentration was increased and in the presence of tetraethylammonium chloride (TEA). In intact segments, N-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), indomethacin, glibenclamide, 4-aminopyridine, clotrimazole and atropine did not affect the concentration-response curve of propofol. This indicates that propofol relaxes human omental arteries and veins in an endothelium independent manner, and that hyperpolarization caused by activation of the K+ channel, BKCa, may be involved.