Recent studies in contracting skeletal muscle have shown that functional vasodilatation in resistance arterioles has an endothelial cell (EC)-dependent component, and, separately have shown that the extracellular matrix protein fibronectin (FN) contributes to functional dilatation in these arterioles. Here we test the hypotheses that (i) the matricryptic heparin-binding region of the first type III repeat of fibrillar FN (FNIII1H) mediates vasodilatation, and (ii) this response is EC dependent. Engineered FN fragments with differing (defined) heparin- and integrin-binding capacities were applied directly to resistance arterioles in cremaster muscles of anaesthetized (pentobarbital sodium, 65 mg kg−1) mice. Both FNIII1H,8-10 and FNIII1H induced dilatations (12.2 ± 1.7 μm, n = 12 and 17.2 ± 2.4 μm, n = 14, respectively) whereas mutation of the active sequence (R613WRPK) of the heparin binding region significantly diminished the dilatation (3.2 ± 1.8 μm, n = 10). Contraction of skeletal muscle fibres via electrical field stimulation produced a vasodilatation (19.4 ± 1.2 μm, n = 12) that was significantly decreased (to 7.0 ± 2.7 μm, n = 7, P < 0.05) in the presence of FNIII1Peptide 6, which blocks extracellular matrix (ECM) FN and FNIII1H signalling. Furthermore, FNIII1H,8-10 and FNIII1H applied to EC-denuded arterioles failed to produce any dilatation indicating that endothelium was required for the response. Finally, FNIII1H significantly increased EC Ca2+ (relative fluorescence 0.98 ± 0.02 in controls versus 1.12 ± 0.05, n = 17, P < 0.05). Thus, we conclude that ECM FN-dependent vasodilatation is mediated by the heparin-binding (RWRPK) sequence of FNIII1 in an EC-dependent manner. Importantly, blocking this signalling sequence decreased the dilatation to skeletal muscle contraction, indicating that there is a physiological role for this FN-dependent mechanism.