We investigated the influences of the K+ channel opening drugs cromakalim and diazoxide and their blocker, glibenclamide, in indomethacin-induced gastric injury in rats. Cromaknlim (0.1 and 0.3 mg/kg) and diazoxide (10 and 30 mg/kg) produced dose-dependent gastroprotection at doses that were also effective on the cardiovascular system. Glibenclamide reversed their gastroprotective effects and aggravated indomethacin-induced gastric damage by its own. Cromakalim (10(-9)-10(-5) M) and diazoxide (10(-9)-10(-4) M) relaxed noradrenaline pre-contracted gastric arteries (94.59 +/- 1.58% and 93.86 +/- 2.99%, respectively). Their relaxant effects were inhibited by glibenclamide (10(-5) M) but not by indomethacin (10(-5) M) and L-G-nitro-L-arginine (10(-4) M). Cromakalim (0.1 and 0.3 mg/kg) did not change gastric mucosal blood flow but increased the gastric mucosal vascular conductance in anaesthetized rats as measured by the hydrogen gas clearance technique. Indomethacin increased myeloperoxidase activity in the gastric mucose, an effect which was reversed by cromakalim and diazoxide. Glibenclamide abolished their effects on myeloperoxidase activity and, alone, increased this parameter. Additionally, indomethacin caused infiltration of neutrophils which was reduced by cromakalim and diazoxide in a glibenclamide sensitive manner. The effects of cromakalim and diazoxide on mucosal myeloperoxidase activity, neutrophil infiltration and gastric injury correlated with each other. The effects of diazoxide (30 mg/kg) and glibenclamide (10 mg/kg) on blood glucose level were not correlated with their effects on gastric injury. Taken together, K+ channel opening drugs show misoprostol-like protective effects in indomethacin-induced gastric injury which seems to be related to modulation of neutrophil function. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.