Tissue O2 delivery in excess of metabolic demand may be a factor in the development of high vascular resistance in experimental models of volume-expanded hypertension. This hypothesis was previously tested in rats with an exchange transfusion of red blood cells treated with inositol hexaphosphate or an intravenous infusion of RSR-4, allosteric effectors of hemoglobin. The binding of these drugs with hemoglobin effect a conformational change in the molecule, such that the affinity for O2 is reduced. However, in both preparations, the changes in vascular resistance could have been nonspecific. The present studies used intravenous infusions of RSR-13, which did not share some of the problematic characteristics of RSR-4 and inositol hexaphosphate. Conscious instrumented rats (an electromagnetic flow probe on ascending aorta or an iliac, mesenteric, or renal Doppler flow probe) were studied for 6 h after an RSR-13 infusion of 200 mg/kg in 15 min. This dose significantly increased arterial P50 (PO2 at which hemoglobin is 50% saturated) from 38 +/- 0.8 to 58 +/- 1.4 mmHg at 1 h after the start of the infusion. In the 3rd h cardiac output fell significantly from a control value of 358 +/- 33 to 243 +/- 24 ml.kg-1.min-1 and total peripheral resistance significantly increased from 0.31 +/- 0.03 to 0.43 +/- 0.04 mmHg.ml-1.kg.min. Cardiac output and P50 returned toward control over the next few hours. Neither cardiac output nor total peripheral resistance changed in the group of rats receiving vehicle alone. In a separate group of rats, iliac flow decreased significantly to 60% of control and iliac resistance increased to 160% of control. Iliac flow increased significantly in the group of rats that received vehicle only. Although the mechanism of these changes has not been established, these results suggest that a decreased O2 affinity leads to an increased total peripheral resistance and regional vascular resistance and support the hypothesis that O2 plays a role in the metabolic autoregulation of blood flow.