Pressor amine therapy in circulatory shock has been generally unfavorable, presumably because these drugs produce unselective, intense vasoconstriction and curtail rather than improve true capillary inflow, distribution and outflow in the microcirculation. The present study compares the influence of a new analog of vasopressin, [2-phenylalanine, 8-ornithine]vasopressin (POV), over wide dose ranges and Ringer's solution on: 1) survival after circulatory shock, induced by different means (e.g., hemorrhage, bowel ischemia); 2) blood pressure and hematocrit in shocked animals; and 3) various microcirculatory parameters after induction of hemorrhage and bowel ischemia shock (e.g., lumen diameters of various types of microvessels, reactivity of microvessels, microvascular flow patterns, leukocytic sticking, petechial hemorrhage formations, vasomotion, etc.). Local administration of POV, in contrast to constrictor catecholamines, induces a venular-to-arteriolar profile of constrictor activity in the normal rat mesenteric microcirculation. Systemic administration of POV to rats subjected to either lethal hemorrhage or bowel ischemia shock: 1) increases survival rates 2- to 8-fold over control rats receiving Ringer's solution; 2) produces a plateau-like effect on arterial blood pressure and returns arterial hematocrits toward normal after hemorrhage; and 3) regenerates and sustains vasomotion and venular tone, decreases microvascular hyper-reactivity characteristic of shock syndromes, restores constricted arteriolar lumen sizes toward normal, predisposes to a splanchnic microbed virtually free of stasis and petechiae, and restores capillary perfusion and outflow to near-normal. These findings indicate that it is possible to synthesize vasoactive molecules which exert selective microvascular effects and are highly beneficial in therapy of low-flow states.