Cyclic AMP levels and protein kinase activity were determined in the aortas of rats with normotension, moderate and severe spontaneous hypertension. While the cyclic AMP levels were reduced in the aortas from rats with moderate and severe hypertension the protein kinase levels were found to be elevated only in the aortas from rats with severe hypertension. We have grown in tissue culture, aortic smooth muscle cells from the normotensive and severely hypertensive rat. Cultured cells from both strains have similar growth patterns and morphology. The differences seen in cyclic AMP and protein kinase levels in the intact aortas are also seen in the aortic smooth muscle cells in culture.