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We investigated the contribution of reduced nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase-dependent reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation to the pathogenesis of diastolic heart failure (DHF) in Dahl salt-sensitive (DS) hypertensive rats, with the aim of testing our hypothesis that the cardioprotective effects of angiotensin II (Ang II) blockade are provided by the suppression of this pathway.DS rats were maintained on high (H: 8.0% NaCl) or low (L: 0.3% NaCl) salt diets from age 7 to 17 weeks. DS/H rats were also treated with candesartan cilexetil (10 mg/kg per day, orally) or a superoxide dismutase mimetic, tempol (3 mmol/l in drinking water) from age 7 to 17 weeks.DS/H rats represented hypertension, left ventricular (LV) relaxation abnormality and myocardial stiffening with preserved systolic heart function. As compared with DS/L rats, DS/H rats showed higher levels of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), p22phox and gp91phox mRNA expression, NADPH oxidase activity and thiobarbituric acid-reactive substance (TBARS) contents in LV tissues. Gene expression of uncoupling protein-2 (UCP-2), an inner mitochondrial membrane proton transporter, was also 2.8 ± 0.5-fold higher. In DS/H rats, treatment with candesartan did not alter blood pressure, but resulted in a marked improvement of the hemodynamic deterioration; these therapeutic effects were accompanied by decreases in myocardial NADPH oxidase activity, TBARS contents and the expression of TGF-β, CTGF, p22phox, gp91phox and UCP-2. Similar therapeutic effects were provided by treatment with tempol in DS/H rats.Our data suggest that NADPH oxidase-mediated ROS production contributes to the pathogenesis of DHF in DS hypertensive rats, and that the cardioprotective effects of AngII blockade are, at least partially, mediated through the suppression of this pathway.