Chronic increases in blood flow increase arterial diameter and NO-dependent dilation in resistance arteries. Because endothelial dysfunction accompanies metabolic syndrome, we hypothesized that flow-mediated remodeling might be impaired in obese rat resistance arteries. Obese and lean Zucker rat mesenteric resistance arteries were exposed to chronic flow increases through arterial ligation in vivo: arteries exposed to high flow were compared with normal flow arteries. Diameter was measured in vitro in cannulated arteries using pressure arteriography. After 7 days, outward remodeling (diameter increased from 346+/-9 to 412+/-11 mum at 100 mm Hg) occurred in lean high-flow arteries. Endothelium-dependent tone was reduced in high-flow arteries from obese rats by contrast with lean animals. On the other hand, diameter enlargement occurred similarly in the 2 strains. The involvement of NO in endothelium-dependent dilation (evidenced by NO blockade) and endothelial NO synthase phosphorylation was smaller in obese than in lean rats. Superoxide anion and reduced nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase subunit expression (p67phox and gp91phox) increased in obese rats and were higher in high-flow than in control arteries. Acute Tempol (a catalase mimetic), catalase plus superoxide dismutase, and l-arginine plus tetrahydrobiopterin restored endothelium-dependent dilation in obese rat normal and high-flow arteries to the level found in lean control arteries. Thus, flow-induced remodeling in obese resistance arteries was associated with a reduced endothelium-mediated dilation because of a decreased NO bioavailability and an excessive superoxide production. This dysfunction might have negative consequences in ischemic diseases in patients with obesity or metabolic syndrome.