ABSTRACT BACKGROUND: Acute exposure to high-altitude stimulates free radical formation in lowlanders yet whether this persists during chronic exposure in healthy well-adapted and maladapted highlanders suffering from chronic mountain sickness (CMS) remains to be established. METHODS: Oxidative-nitrosative stress [ascorbate radical (A•-), electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy and nitrite (NO2-), ozone-based chemiluminescence] was assessed in venous blood of 25 male highlanders living at 3,600 m with (n = 13, CMS+) and without (n = 12, CMS-) CMS. Twelve age and activity-matched healthy male lowlanders were examined at sea-level and during acute hypoxia. We also measured flow-mediated dilatation (FMD), arterial stiffness (AIx-75) and carotid intima-media thickness (IMT). RESULTS: Compared to normoxic lowlanders, oxidative-nitrosative stress was moderately increased in CMS- (P < 0.05) as indicated by elevated A•- (3,191 ± 457 vs. 2,640 ± 445 arbitrary units (AU)] and lower NO2- (206 ± 55 vs. 420 ± 128 nmol/L) whereas vascular function remained preserved. This was comparable to that observed during acute hypoxia in lowlanders in whom vascular dysfunction is typically observed. In contrast, this response was markedly exaggerated in CMS+ (A•-: 3,765 ± 429 AU and NO2- : 148 ± 50 nmol/L) compared to both CMS- and lowlanders (P < 0.05). This was associated with systemic vascular dysfunction as indicated by lower (P < 0.05 vs. CMS-) FMD (4.2 ± 0.7 vs. 7.6 ± 1.7 %) and increased AIx-75 (23 ± 8 vs. 12 ± 7 %) and carotid IMT (714 ± 127 vs. 588 ± 94 µM). CONCLUSIONS: Healthy highlanders display a moderate sustained elevation in oxidative-nitrosative stress that unlike the equivalent increase evoked by acute hypoxia in healthy lowlanders, failed to affect vascular function. Its more marked elevation in patients with CMS may contribute to systemic vascular dysfunction.Clinical Trials Gov Registration # NCT011827921Neurovascular Research Laboratory, Faculty of Health, Science and Sport, University of Glamorgan, Wales, UK;2Sondes Moléculaires en Biologie et Stress Oxydant, Institut de Chimie Radicalaire, CNRS UMR 7273, Aix-Marseille University, France;3Department of Cardiology, University Hospital of Bern, Bern, Switzerland;4Institute of Clinical Physiology, CNR, Pisa, Italy;5Instituto Bolivano de Biologia de Altura, La Paz, Bolivia;6Centre for Clinical and Population Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland,7Botnar Center for Clinical Research, Hirslanden Group, Lausanne, Switzerland;8Facultad de Ciencias, Departamento de Biología, Universidad de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile and9Department of Internal Medicine, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne, Switzerland*Drs Bailey, Rimoldi, Scherrer and Sartori contributed equally to this workCorrespondence: Damian Miles Bailey, Neurovascular Research Laboratory, Faculty of Health, Science and Sport, University of Glamorgan, UK CF37 4AT email: firstname.lastname@example.org.