Electrical stimulation of isolated canine coronary arteries causes release of norepinephrine and subsequent relaxation by activation of beta adrenoceptors. The purpose of the present study was to determine if this beta adrenergic relaxation was influenced by a concomitant release of acetylcholine. Rings of epicardial coronary arteries of the dog were studied in organ chambers filled with physiological salt solution. The tetrodotoxin-sensitive, beta adrenergically mediated relaxation induced by electrical stimulation was studied during contractions evoked by prostaglandin F2 alpha. The relaxation to low-frequency stimulation was inhibited and augmented, respectively, by acetylcholine and atropine, suggesting that release of acetylcholine may modulate the beta adrenergic response to sympathetic nerve stimulation. The relaxation caused by high-frequency stimulation was not affected by atropine or removal of the endothelium, indicating that endogenously released acetylcholine does not act directly on the smooth muscle or initiate an endothelium-dependent vasodilator response. In superfused strips of coronary artery preincubated in [3H]norepinephrine, acetylcholine depressed the stimulated overflow of [3H]norepinephrine, indicating prejunctional cholinergic receptors on adrenergic nerve endings. Atropine augmented the overflow, suggesting that endogenous acetylcholine, released during stimulation, inhibits the release of norepinephrine. These observations suggest that prejunctional inhibition of norepinephrine release, which limits the sympathetic beta adrenergic relaxation of the smooth muscle, is the primary neurogenic cholinergic effect in canine epicardial coronary arteries.