Sympathetic nerve stimulation causes a greater vascular response in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) compared to Wistar-Kyoto normotensive rats (WKY), i.e., noradrenergic neurotransmission is enhanced in SHR. Prejunctional and/or postjunctional defects in the regulation of noradrenergic neurotransmission by endogenous prostaglandins could contribute to the increased responsiveness to sympathetic nerve stimulation in SHR. This hypothesis was tested by comparing the effects in SHR vs. WKY of inhibition of cyclooxygenase on vascular responses to periarterial nerve stimulation (PNS), norepinephrine (NE) and angiotensin II (ang II) in the in situ blood perfused rat mesentery. The cyclooxygenase inhibitor, indomethacin, potentiated vascular responses to PNS and NE similarly in 16-week old SHR vs. age-matched WKY. However, in this age group, indomethacin enhanced responses to ang II more in SHR compared with WKY. To determine whether chronic exposure of the vasculature to high blood pressure might alter the physiological significance of prostaglandin-mediated regulation of noradrenergic neurotransmission in vivo, additional studies were conducted in SHR and WKY that were 25 weeks old. In this age group, neither indomethacin nor ibuprofen, an alternative cyclooxygenase inhibitor, significantly potentiated responses to either PNS or NE in SHR, whereas in WKY both indomethacin and ibuprofen potentiated responses to PNS and NE. Also, in these older animals, indomethacin and ibuprofen enhanced responses to ang II equally in SHR vs. WKY. These findings indicate that in aging SHR prostaglandin-mediated regulation of vascular responses to sympathetic nerve stimulation becomes defective. This defect may contribute to the worsening of high blood pressure with age and may be involved in some of the vascular pathology associated with hypertension.