Caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), a flavonoid like compound, is one of the major components of honeybee propolis. It was found to be a potent free radical scavenger and antioxidant recently. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of CAPE on cadmium (Cd)-induced hypertension and cardiomyopathy in rats. In particular, nitric oxide (NO) may contribute to the pathophysiology of Cd induced cardiac impairment. Malondialdehyde (MDA, an index of lipid peroxidation) levels and nitric oxide (NO, a vasodilator) levels were used as markers Cd-induced cardiac impairment and the success of CAPE treatment. Also, the findings have been supported by the histopathologic evidences. The rats were randomly divided into three experimental groups each (12), as follows: the control group, Cd-treated group (Cd) and Cd plus CAPE-treated group (Cd+ CAPE). CdCl2 in 0.9% NaCl was administrated intraperitoneally (i.p.) with a dose of 1 mg/kg/day. CAPE was co-administered i.p. a dose of 10 mu M/kg for 15 days. Hypertension was found to be induced by intraperitoneal administration of Cd in a dose of 1 mg/kg/day on the measurements taken 15 days later. MDA levels were increased (p < 0.001) in cardiac tissue and NO levels were decreased (p < 0.05) in serum in the Cd group than those of the control group had. On the other hand, there was a slight difference (increase) in MDA levels in the Cd + CAPE group than the ones in the control group (p < 0.003). In addition, MDA levels were decreased and NO levels were increased in the Cd + CAPE group compared with the Cd group (p < 0.00 1, p < 0.0001, respectively). As a result, treatment with CAPE significantly reversed the increased lipid peroxidation (LPO) product, MDA, and decreased NO levels in Cd treated animals. In the histopathologic examination, a significant hypertrophy in atrial and ventricular myofibrils was observed in only Cd administered group, in comparison with the control group. There was no statistically significant difference between the CAPE given and control groups by means of atrial and ventricular myofibril diameters. In conclusion, the underlying mechanism of the myocardial hypertrophy may be related to hypertension due to inhibition of NO production in the vessels, and CAPE has a protective effect on Cd-induced hypertension mediated cardiac impairment in the rats. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.