This study examines the effects of Candida albicans on acethylcholine-induced, endothelium-dependent relaxation of thoracic aorta of rabbits, precontracted by phenylephrine (10(-7)M). Isolated vessel rings were incubated with C. albicans, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or their mannans, and endothelium-dependent relaxation was measured by the induction of acethylcholine. Endothelium-dependent relaxation remained unaffected after 3 hours by either C. albicans or S. cerevisiae, or their mannans. After 24 hours, however, incubation with C. albicans had completely abolished relaxation, whereas relaxation was decreased by mannan of C. albicans and continued unaffected by S. cerevisiae. In contrast, no change was registered with a 24 hours incubation of C. Albicans in a sodium nitroprusside-induced, endothelium-independent, vascular smooth muscle relaxation. Microscopical investigation of the morphological structure of vessel walls revealed penetration of C. albicans on the intimal surface after 3 hours incubation and infiltration of the yeast through the vessel wall after 24 hours. No changes in vessel morphology occurred after 3 or 24 hours with S. cerevisiae or the mannan of C. albicans. These results show the ability of C. albicans to inhibit endothelium-dependent, but not endothelium-independent, relaxation of vascular smooth muscle and may have important implications for functional damage to endothelial cells and the regulation of vessel tone and blood flow.