Time-dependent variations of the vasodilator effects of sodium nitroprusside and glyceryl trinitrate on isolated smooth muscle have been studied on rings of rat thoracic aorta, both endothelium-intact and endothelium-denuded. For most of the concentrations of sodium nitroprusside used the induced relaxations were significantly dependent on the time the tissues were obtained. However, significant temporal differences were obtained for glyceryl trinitrate-induced relaxations at lower concentrations only For both endothelium-intact and endothelium-denuded preparations. EC50 values of sodium nitroprusside and glyceryl trinitrate (i.e. the concentrations inducing half the maximum response) were also significantly different and they had quite similar rhythmic features both in endothelium-intact and in endothelium-denuded preparations. These results clearly show that the in-vitro sensitivity of rat thoracic aorta to nitrodilator agents varies over a 24-h period and thus depends on when the animals were killed; the presence of endothelium does not change the rhythm of nitrodilator activity. These variations might be a result of circadian rhythm in the guanylate cyclase-cGMP system which mediates responses to nitrodilator agents.