Background: Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) influences endothelial function and causes hypertension. Objectives: Our aim was to evaluate the role of endothelial dysfunction in the pathogenesis of hypertension in OSAS. Methods: Twenty-three patients with OSAS but without hypertension and 15 healthy normotensive subjects were investigated. The presence or absence of OSAS was evaluated with a sleep study. Endothelial function was investigated with brachial artery ultrasound examination. Results: Baseline characteristics were equivalent between the two groups. Minimal oxygen saturation and apnea-hypopnea indexes in the OSAS and control groups were 62.9 +/- 16.5 versus 94.9 +/- 1.1% (p < 0.0001) and 53.1 +/- 20.3 versus 3.8 +/- 0.9 (p < 0.0001), respectively. There was not statistically significant difference between basal brachial artery diameters measured in the morning and in the evening in all groups. Flow-mediated dilation (FMD) values measured in the morning were lower than those measured in the evening in both OSAS patients and the control group: FMD of OSAS patients was 6.04 +/- 3.18% in the morning and 10.38 +/- 4.23% in the evening hours (p = 0.001), and FMD of control subjects was 10.9 +/- 2.6% in the morning and 13.9 +/- 2.32 in the evening hours (p = 0.002). Differences in FMD values measured both in the morning and evening hours in OSAS patients were lower compared with those in control subjects (p < 0.0001 in the morning hours and p = 0.003 in the evening hours). Conclusions: We detected a prominent diurnal deterioration in endothelial function in normotensive OSAS patients compared with healthy subjects. This deterioration may occur due to ongoing hypoxemia during the night and it may be a possible cause of hypertension and atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases in patients with OSAS. Copyright (C) 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel.