We aimed to study the alterations in serum homocysteine levels and endothelium-dependent and -independent vascular relaxant responses in adjuvant-induced arthritis of the rat and to determine the effects of vitamin E administration on these changes. Arthritis was induced by a single intradermal injection of Freund's complete adjuvant into the paw. 26 days after the induction of arthritis, serum homocysteine levels and relaxant responses to acetylcholine and sodiumnitroprusside in thoracic aortas were evaluated. The relaxant responses to acetylcholine were decreased in aortas from arthritic rats, whereas the responses to sodiumnitroprusside were not significantly different when compared to the aortas from control rats. A significant increase was observed in serum homocysteine levels of the arthritic rats in comparison to those of controls. Vitamin E administration (100 mg/kg/day, i.m. for 26 days) to arthritic rats resulted in a significant increase in endothelium-dependent aortic responses to acetylcholine and a significant decrease in serum homocysteine levels with respect to the non-treated arthritic rats. However, in healthy rats, vitamin E treatment significantly decreased the acetylcholine-induced relaxant responses. We conclude that adjuvant-induced arthritis in the rat is associated with increased serum homocysteine levels and this is accompanied by a reduction in endothelium-dependent vascular responses in the thoracic aortas. Vitamin E treatment leads to normalization of the increased serum homocysteine levels and improves the endothelium-dependent relaxant responses in this experimental model. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.