A significant factor in the development of hypertension may be excessive vasoconstriction within the renal medulla. This study therefore investigated the role of superoxide dismutase (SOD) in the regulation of renal medullary and cortical blood perfusion (MBP and CBP, respectively) in both stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRSP) and normotensive Wistar rats. CBP and MBP were measured before and after intra-renal infusion of the SOD inhibitor, diethyldithio-carbamic acid (DETC). Under basal conditions, mean arterial pressure was significantly greater in SHRSP than Wistar rats, but both MBP and heart rate (HR) were significantly lower in SHRSP relative to Wistar rats (P<0.05, n=7 in both groups). Infusion of DETC (2 mg/kg/min) into the cortico-medullary border area of the kidney significantly decreased MBP in the SHRSPs (by 28 +/- 3 %, n=7, P<0.05), indicating a greater vasoconstriction within this vascular bed. However, DETC also significantly decreased MBP in Wistar rats to a similar extent (24 +/- 4 %, n=7, P<0.05). These results suggest that superoxide anions play a significant role in reducing renal vascular compliance within the renal medulla in both normotensive and hypertensive animals, although the responses are not greater in the hypertensive relative to the control animals.