Morphometric measurements of three categories of mesenteric vessels (representing elastic, muscular and arteriolar vessels) from prehypertensive spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and age-matched Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY) were carried out at the light and electron microscope levels. Structural alterations of the blood vessels were already present in the SHR, even though the blood pressure was not yet elevated as compared with age-matched WKY. No change was found in the elastic vessels (superior mesenteric artery). Among the muscular arteries (i.e. large mesenteric arteries), the increase in vessel wall cross-sectional area was due to the increase in the intima, media and adventitia. Increase in media was due to hyperplasia of the smooth muscle cells. The smooth muscle cells were not hypertrophied. Nerve density was also higher in the large mesenteric arteries of SHR. In the arteriolar vessels (i.e. small mesenteric arteries), wall to lumen ratio, as well as media to lumen ratio, were increased in the SHR. The number of smooth muscle cell layers was also increased. In all these vessel types, the cross-sectional area of the lumen under maximal relaxation was similar between SHR and WKY, except in small mesenteric arteries where the lumen was smaller in the SHR. Our results suggest that structural alteration of the blood vessels at the prehypertensive phase may be one of the contributing factors leading to the development of hypertension in the SHR.