The aim was to determine whether uptake of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) by the 5-HT transporter (SERT) modulates contractile responses to 5-HT in rat pulmonary arteries and whether this modulation is altered by exposure of rats to chronic hypoxia (10% oxygen; 8 h/day; 5 days). The effects of the SERT inhibitor, citalopram (100 nM), on contractions to 5-HT were determined in isolated ring preparations of pulmonary artery (intralobar and main) and compared with data obtained in systemic arteries. In intralobar pulmonary arteries citalopram produced a potentiation (viz. an increase in potency, pEC50) of 5-HT. The potentiation was endothelium-dependent in preparations from normoxic rats but endothelium-independent in preparations from hypoxic rats. In main pulmonary artery endothelium-independent potentiation was seen in preparations from hypoxic rats but no potentiation occurred in preparations from normoxic rats. In systemic arteries, citalopram caused endothelium-independent potentiation in aorta but no potentiation in mesenteric arteries; there were no differences between hypoxic and normoxic rats. It is concluded that SERT can influence the concentration of 5-HT in the vicinity of the vasoconstrictor receptors in pulmonary arteries. The data suggest that in pulmonary arteries from hypoxic rats, unlike normoxic rats, the SERT responsible for this effect is not in the endothelium and, hence, is probably in the smooth muscle. The data are compatible with reports that, in the pulmonary circulation, hypoxia induces/up-regulates SERT, and hence increases 5-HT uptake, in vascular smooth muscle. The findings may have implications in relation to the suggested use of SERT inhibitors in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension.