Exposure to diesel exhaust was recently identified as an important cardiovascular risk factor, but whether it impairs nitric oxide (NO)-mediated endothelial function and increases production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in endothelial cells is not known. We tested these hypotheses in a randomized, controlled, crossover study in healthy male volunteers exposed to ambient and polluted air (n=12). The effects of skin microvascular hyperemic provocative tests, including local heating and iontophoresis of acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside, were assessed using a laser Doppler imager. Before local heating, skin was pretreated by iontophoresis of either a specific NO-synthase inhibitor (L-N-arginine-methyl-ester) or a saline solution (Control). ROS production was measured by chemiluminescence using the lucigenin technique in human umbilical vein endothelial cells preincubated with serum from 5 of the subjects. Exposure to diesel exhaust reduced acetylcholine-induced vasodilation (P<0.01) but did not affect vasodilation with sodium nitroprusside. Moreover, the acetylcholine/sodium nitroprusside vasodilation ratio decreased from 1.51 ± 0.1 to 1.06 ± 0.07 (P<0.01) and was correlated to inhaled particulate matter 2.5 (r=-0.55; P<0.01). NO-mediated skin thermal vasodilatation decreased from 466 ± 264% to 29 ± 123% (P<0.05). ROS production was increased after polluted air exposure (P<0.01) and was correlated with the total amount of inhaled particulate matter <2.5 µm (PM2.5). In healthy subjects, acute experimental exposure to diesel exhaust impaired NO-mediated endothelial vasomotor function and promoted ROS generation in endothelial cells. Increased PM2.5 inhalation enhances microvascular dysfunction and ROS production.