In the rat superior mesenteric arteries, the mechanical responses to perivascular nerve stimulation were characterized. The predominant response was contraction mediated by the release of norepinephrine, acting postjunctionally on α1-adrenoceptors. These frequency-dependent contractions were unaffected by the α2-selective adrenoceptor antagonist yohimbine, but were markedly attenuated by clonidine, the α2-selective adrenoceptor agonist. In the presence of praxosin, the α1-selective antagonist, a significant component of the nerve-mediated contraction was still present. At the concentrations used, prazosin, yohimbine, as well as clonidine acted as competitive antagonists of response to exogenous norepinephrine. This differential inhibition of norepinephrine- and nerve-mediated responses suggested the presence of distinct postjunctional adrenoceptors. The effects of clonidine and yohimbine are interpreted to arise from prejunctional modulation of norepinephrine release. In 30 of the 100 vessels studies, there was spontaneous myogenic tone. In these arteries, field stimulation caused frequency- and voltage-dependent relaxations. These responses were neural in origin, dependent on sympathetic nerve activity, but were nonadrenergic and noncholinergic in nature. Nalosine, indomethacin, and substance P inhibited these relaxations with no significant effect on the tone. The opioid agonist, 1-13 dynorphin relaxed these vessels and only naloxone inhibited this response. The effects of these agents were selective against field-stimulated responses since they did not alter the relaxation to the nonspecific agent sodium nitroprusside. These results provide circumstantial evidence for opioid-mediated vascular relaxation that is presynaptically modulated by prostanoids and substance P.