Ischemia-reperfusion (I/R)-induced acute kidney injury (AKI) results in prolonged impairment of peripheral (i.e., nonrenal) vascular function since skeletal muscle resistance arteries derived from rats 5 wk post-I/R injury, show enhanced responses to ANG II stimulation but not other constrictors. Because vascular superoxide increases ANG II sensitivity, we hypothesized that peripheral responsiveness following recovery from AKI was attributable to vascular oxidant stress. Gracilis arteries (GA) isolated from post-I/R rats (approximately 5 wk recovery) showed significantly greater superoxide levels relative to sham-operated controls, as detected by dihydroeithidium, which was further augmented by acute ANG II stimulation in vitro. Hydrogen peroxide measured by dichlorofluorescein was not affected by ANG II. GA derived from postischemic animals manifested significantly greater constrictor responses in vitro to ANG II than GA from sham-operated controls. The addition of the superoxide scavenging reagent Tempol (10(-5) M) normalized the response to values similar to sham-operated controls. Apocynin (10(-6) M) and endothelial denudation nearly abrogated all ANG II-stimulated constrictor activity in GA from post-AKI rats, suggesting an important role for an endothelial-derived source of peripheral oxidative stress. Apocynin treatment in vivo abrogated GA oxidant stress and attenuated ANG II-induced pressor responses post-AKI. Interestingly, gene expression studies in GA vessels indicated a paradoxical reduction in NADPH oxidase subunit and AT(1)-receptor genes and no effect on several antioxidant genes. Taken together, this study demonstrates that AKI alters peripheral vascular responses by increasing oxidant stress, likely in the endothelium, via an undefined mechanism.