Reactive oxygen species (ROS, free radicals) produced during cardiac ischemia and reperfusion can damage the contractile functions of arteries. The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ pump in coronary artery smooth muscle is very sensitive to ROS. Here we show that contractions of de-endothelialized rings from porcine left coronary artery produced by the hormone Angiotensin II and by the SR Ca2+ pump inhibitors cyclopiazonic acid and thapsigargin correlate negatively with the tissue weight. In contrast, the contractions due to membrane depolarization by high KCl correlate positively. Peroxide also produces a small contraction which correlates negatively with the tissue weight. When artery rings are treated with peroxide and washed, their ability to contract with Angiotensin II, cyclopiazonic acid and thapsigargin decreases. Thus, the SR Ca2+ pump may play a more important role in the contractility of the smaller segments of the coronary artery than in the larger segments. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that ROS which damage the SR Ca2+ pump affect the contractile function of the distal segments more adversely than of the proximal segments.