Propranolol is a non-selective beta-adrenergic receptor blocker used in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and migraine prophylaxis. Although it has been shown that propranolol dilates the peripheral arteries of rat, its action in the central nervous system vasculature has not been investigated. In this study, the effects of propranolol in rat basilar artery were investigated. Basilar arteries from male Wistar rats were examined in a myograph system. The relaxant effects of propranolol, pindolol, atenolol, pizotifen and methysergide were examined in basilar arteries precontracted by serotonin or PGF2 alpha. Only propranolol and pizotifen induced vasorelaxations; the pD2 values were 5.23 +/- 0.13 and 5.94 +/- 0.03; respectively. The vasorelaxation induced by propranolol and pizotifen was not affected by endothelium or the presence of L-NOARG and/or indomethacin. The calcium channel blocking activity of propranolol and pizotifen was compared with that of nifedipine in a calcium free solution with high K+ (60 mM) concentration. These drugs shifted the concentration-response curves of calcium induced contractions with pA2 values of 5.45 +/- 0.04; 7.14 +/- 0.09; and 9.22 +/- 0.06 respectively. The P2Y receptor agonist UTP was used to induce sustained and stable contractions in basilar artery segments. Nifedipine caused a marked, but an incomplete relaxation. Cyclopiazonic acid, an inhibitor of sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium channels, but not propranolol or pizotifen abolished the remaining tonus after partial relaxations obtained with nifedipine. These results suggest that propranolol causes vasorelaxation by blocking the L-type voltage-gated calcium channels in the rat basilar artery. (C) 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.