Experimental hyperglycemia produces a marked hypertrophic response in rat mesenteric arteries, accompanied by activation of Na/H exchange (NHE) in medial smooth muscle. This study asked if other vascular beds are similarly affected by examining the hypertrophic and NHE response of the basilar artery. Sections of mesenteric and basilar arteries from adult rats were analysed by standard morphometric techniques at 1 and 3 weeks after streptozotocin injection. NHE activity was assessed as changes in intracellular pH in isolated intact vessels using concurrent myography and fluorescence spectroscopy. Mesenteric arteries showed a significant increase in lumenal (47%), medial (51%) and adventitial (17%) area. In contrast, these parameters were not increased in basilar arteries from the same set of animals. Maximal NHE activity was significantly increased at I week (24%) and 3 weeks (20%) in mesenteric arteries, but in basilar arteries there was no change in basal intracellular pH, maximal NHE activity or kinetic properties of the transporter. NHE plays a central role in vascular changes in diabetes. As the mesenteric hypertrophy is amenable to therapeutic intervention these findings add further to the potential of NHE as a therapeutic target for ameliorating vascular disease in diabetes. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.