Oxidative stress is associated with endothelial dysfunction in heart failure. The goals of this study were to determine whether 1) gene transfer of extracellular superoxide dismutase (ecSOD) reduces levels of superoxide and improves endothelial function in the aorta and mesenteric artery in rats with heart failure, and 2) the heparin-binding domain (HBD) of ecSOD, by which ecSOD binds to cells, is required for protective effects of ecSOD. Seven weeks after coronary ligation, in rats with heart failure and sham-operated rats, we injected adenoviral vectors intravenously that express ecSOD, ecSOD with deletion of the HBD (ecSODDeltaHBD), or a control vector. Four days after injection of viruses, responses to acetylcholine, ADP, and sodium nitroprusside were examined in rings of the aorta and mesenteric artery. ecSOD bound to endothelium and increased SOD activity in the aorta after gene transfer of ecSOD, not ecSODDeltaHBD. Gene transfer of ecSOD, but not ecSODDeltaHBD, reduced levels of superoxide and improved relaxation to acetylcholine and ADP in the aorta and mesenteric artery from rats with heart failure. Improvement of relaxation to acetylcholine in the mesenteric artery from rats with heart failure after gene transfer of ecSOD was mediated in part by hydrogen peroxide. The major finding of this study is that the HBD of ecSOD is necessary for protection against endothelial dysfunction in rats with heart failure. We speculate that a common gene variant in the HBD of ecSOD, which is a risk factor for ischemic heart disease, may be a risk factor for vascular maladaptation and endothelial dysfunction in heart failure.