The objective of our study was to determine the mechanism(s) involved in the inhibitory effect of platelet-activating factor on renal vascular reactivity, in vivo. Bolus injections of vasoconstrictor agonists were administered into the renal circulation of pentobarbital anesthetized male Wistar rats at a dose to cause a transient 45 to 50% decrease in renal blood flow. Intrarenal infusion of platelet-activating factor (PAF) at 2.5 ng/min/kg attenuated the vasoconstrictor response to angiotensin II by 66%, a significantly smaller reduction of 35% for norepinephrine-mediated vasoconstriction, 22% for vasopressin-mediated vasoconstriction and no alteration of KCl-mediated vasoconstriction. The preferential inhibitory effect of platelet-activating factor on angiotensin II-mediated renal vasoconstriction was mimicked by the intrarenal infusion of either 0.2 to 5 micrograms/min/kg methacholine (endothelium-dependent vasodilator) or 2 micrograms/min/kg sodium nitroprusside (nitric oxide donor). After inhibition of nitric oxide synthesis with NG-monomethyl-L-arginine, intrarenal infusion of PAF or methacholine reduced angiotensin II-mediated renal vasoconstriction significantly less than that observed in the absence of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine. Therefore, this study provides evidence that the shared ability of platelet-activating factor and methacholine to selectively reduce angiotensin II-mediated renal vasoconstriction involves endothelium-derived nitric oxide.