Radial artery (RA) vasospasm remains a potential cause of early graft failure after coronary artery bypass graft surgery, despite pretreatment with alpha-adrenergic or calcium channel blockers. Our aim was to investigate the mechanism of the vasorelaxant effects of Rho-kinase inhibitors (Y-27632 and fasudil) on the human RA. Segments were obtained from 30 patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft and were divided into 3-4 mm vascular rings. The rings were stimulated with 10(-5) mol/L phenylephrine (PE) by using the isolated tissue bath technique and were relaxed with 10(-6) mol/L acetylcholine. Relaxation responses were recorded for Y-27632 (10(-9)-10(-4) mol/L), fasudil (10-9-10-4 mol/L), and sodium nitroprusside (SNP) (10(-9)-10(-5) mol/L). Y-27632 and fasudil relaxation responses were repeated in either N-G-nitro-L-arginine (L-NNA), which is a specific endothelial nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, or 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo[4,3-a]quinoxalin-1-one (ODQ), which is a guanylate cyclase inhibitor. SNP relaxation responses were repeated in 10(-8) mol/L Y-27632 and 10(-8) mol/L fasudil. Y-27632 and fasudil caused concentration-dependent vasorelaxation in RA rings precontracted with PE, and maximal relaxation (100%) was recorded at the highest concentration used (10(-4) mol/L). The vasorelaxant effects of Y-27632 and fasudil were significantly reduced in the presence of L-NNA and ODQ, and the pD(2) values of Y-27632 and fasudil were not changed. The vasorelaxant effects of SNP were significantly increased in the presence of Y-27632 and fasudil, and the pD(2) values of SNP were not changed. These findings indicate that Y-27632 and fasudil caused concentration-dependent vasorelaxation in the RA rings. Because this effect was decreased in a dose-dependent manner by L-NNA and ODQ, the relaxant effects of Y-27632 and fasudil could be due to stimulation by nitric oxide that is being released. Rho-kinase inhibitors may have an important role in preventing vasospasm in arterial grafts used for coronary artery surgery.