The effects of hyperosmotic mannitol on vascular smooth muscle contractile responses and on 45Ca movements were examined in different isolated canine arteries. Prior exposure to 50 dim mannitol decreased contractile responses elicited with dopamine (DA) in helical strips of canine terminal mesenteric arteries (Tm) and decreased the contractile response elicited with potassium (K+) in both isolated left anterior descending (LAD) and circumflex coronary arteries. Tension responses induced by norepinephrine or DA in the Tm and K+ and prostaglandin F2α in LAD were relaxed by subsequent exposure to mannitol. Mannitol increased the uptake of 45Ca in Tm arteries. Exposure of the Tm and branches of the LAD to mannitol during the washout of 45Ca resulted in a decrease in the rate of loss of 45Ca; the presence of either K+, Mg2+, or ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid during the washout did not prevent the observed mannitol-induced decrease in 45Ca efflux. These effects of mannitol on 45Ca efflux without a concomitant major change in net 45Ca uptake could be attributed to an increase in bound Ca2+ at relevant membrane sites or stores. Thus, hypertonic mannitol may alter contractile responsiveness of selected canine arteries by impeding the release of bound and/or sequestered Ca2+ and, in this manner, decreasing the Ca2+ concentration at the contractile elements.