Previously, studies have demonstrated that the effects of both a laboratory-produced vancomycin and a clinically available vancomycin were mediated, in part, by activation of both H1 and H2 receptors; however, other mechanisms may play a role in the vascular changes associated with vancomycin, since neither H1 and H2 receptor blockade has completely abolished the vasodilator responses to vancomycin in any model system. To study the mechanisms of vancomycin interactions in the hindlimb vascular bed of the rat, responses of two types of vancomycin preparations were studied. Vancomycin prepared for either clinical or laboratory use produced an initial short-lived period of vasoconstriction followed by a prolonged period of vasodilation in the hindlimb vascular bed. Responses to both the vancomycins and histamine on systemic arterial vasodilation were significantly decreased after administration of both the H1-receptor antagonist diphenhydramine and the H2-receptor antagonist famotidine. Verapamil, an L-type calcium channel blocker, significantly reduced the vasopressor responses to clinical vancomycin but not the vasopressor responses to laboratory vancomycin. Enalaprilat, an angiotensin-converting enzyme blocker, significantly reduced the vasodilator responses but not the vasoconstrictor responses of clinical vancomycin and significantly reduced the vasoconstrictor responses but not the vasodilator responses to laboratory vancomycin. Meclofenamate, a cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor, and Nω-L-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), a nitric oxide synthetase inhibitor, had no significant effect on the biphasic responses with either vancomycin preparations. Atropine, an anticholinergic-antimuscarinic receptor antagonist, and propranolol, a beta adrenergic blocker, had no significant effect on vancomycin responses. Finally, ondansetron, a serotonin receptor blocker, and HOE 140, a bradykinin receptor blocker, also had no significant effect on vancomycin responses. These data suggest that both vancomycin preparations (clinically available and laboratory prepared) caused biphasic responses that differed from the dose-dependent vasodilation elicited by histamine. Both vancomycin preparations' vasodilator responses appear to be modulated, in part, by a histamine receptor-sensitive mechanism, while vancomycin-induced vasoconstrictor responses appear to be modulated, in part, by angiotensin-converting enzyme and L-type calcium channel-sensitive mechanisms in the rat hindlimb vascular bed. These data also suggest that the vascular responses of vancomycin are preparation dependent.