Distal to a chronic coronary artery stenosis, structural remodeling of the microvasculature occurs. The microvascular functional changes distal to the stenosis have not been studied in detail. We tested the hypothesis that microvascular structural remodeling is accompanied by altered regulation of coronary vasomotor tone with increased responsiveness to endothelin-1. Vasomotor tone was studied in coronary microvessels from healthy control swine and from swine 3 to 4 months after implantation of an occluder that causes a progressive coronary narrowing, resulting in regional left ventricular dysfunction and blunted myocardial vasodilator reserve. Arterioles (approximate to 200-mu m passive inner diameter at 60 mm Hg) were isolated from regions perfused by the stenotic left anterior descending and normal left circumflex coronary arteries and studied in vitro. Passive pressure-diameter curves demonstrated reduced distensibility of subendocardial left anterior descending compared with subendocardial left circumflex or control arterioles, suggestive of structural remodeling. Myogenic responses were blunted in subendocardial left anterior descending compared with left circumflex arterioles, reflecting altered smooth muscle function. However, vasodilator responses to nitroprusside and bradykinin were not different in the endocardium, suggesting preserved endothelium and smooth muscle responsiveness. Finally, vasoconstrictor responses to endothelin-1 were enhanced in left anterior descending arterioles compared with left circumflex or control arterioles. Regional myocardial vascular conductance responses to bradykinin and endothelin in vivo confirmed the in vitro observations. In conclusion, inward remodeling of coronary microvessels distal to a stenosis is accompanied by exaggerated vasoconstrictor responses to endothelin-1. These structural and functional alterations may aggravate flow abnormalities distal to a chronic coronary artery stenosis.