Nitric oxide (NO) and superoxide are both constitutive products of the endothelium. Because NO is readily inactivated by superoxide, the bioactivity of endothelium-derived NO (EDNO) is dependent on local activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD). We examined the effects of chronic inhibition of copper-zinc SOD (CuZnSOD) using a rat model of dietary copper restriction. Male weanling Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a Cu-deficient diet and received either no Cu replacement (Cu-deficient) or Cu in the drinking water (Cu-sufficient). Compared with Cu-sufficient animals, Cu-deficiency was associated with a 68% reduction in CuZnSOD activity and a 58% increase in vascular superoxide as estimated by lucigenin chemiluminescence (both P < .05). Compared with Cu-sufficient animals, arterial relaxation in the thoracic aorta from Cu-deficient animals was 10-fold less sensitive to acetylcholine, a receptor-dependent EDNO agonist, but only 1.5-fold less sensitive to A23187, a receptor-independent EDNO agonist, and only 1.25-fold less sensitive to authentic NO (all P < .05). In contrast, acute inhibition of CuZnSOD with 10 mM diethyldithiocarbamate produced a more uniform reduction in sensitivity to acetylcholine (8-fold), A23187 (10-fold), and NO (4-fold; all P < .001). Cu-deficient animals demonstrated a 2.5-fold increase in plasma-esterified F2-isoprostanes, a stable marker of lipid peroxidation, that correlated inversely with arterial relaxation to acetylcholine (R = -.83; P < .0009) but not A23187 or authentic NO. From these findings, we conclude that chronic inhibition of CuZnSOD inhibits EDNO-mediated arterial relaxation through two mechanisms, one being direct inactivation of NO and the other being lipid peroxidation that preferentially interrupts receptor-mediated stimulation of EDNO.