We have examined the effects of pre-hepatic portal hypertension on the responsiveness of aorta from Wistar and Sprague–Dawley rats. Rats were made portal hypertensive by creating a calibrated portal vein stenosis, or sham operated. In rat aorta, there was no significant difference between portal hypertensive and sham-operated animals in the contractile potency of KCl, noradrenaline or phenylephrine. In aortas from Wistar rats, the maximum response to KCl (0.71±0.12 ;g) and noradrenaline (1.00±0.17 ;g) but not phenylephrine (0.86±0.10 ;g) in portal hypertensive animals was significantly increased compared with that in sham-operated animals (0.45±0.04 ;g, 0.57±0.07 ;g, 0.71±0.05 ;g respectively). In aortas from Sprague–Dawley rats, the maximum response to KCl (1.21±0.21 ;g) and phenylephrine (1.54±0.30 ;g) but not noradrenaline (0.93±0.09 ;g) in portal hypertensive animals was significantly increased compared with that in sham-operated animals (0.59±0.09 ;g, 0.76±0.11 ;g, 1.04±0.10 ;g respectively). There was no difference between portal hypertensive and sham-operated Wistar rats in the affinity or maximum number of binding sites for [3H]prazosin to α1-adrenoceptors in cardiac ventricular membranes. It is concluded that portal hypertension tends to produce an increase rather than a decrease in the contractile response to vasoconstrictors in aorta from both Wistar and Sprague–Dawley rats. This suggests that the diminished responsiveness to vasoconstrictors reported in portal hypertensive rats in vivo is not due to a diminished responsiveness at the level of the vascular smooth muscle.

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