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Cadmium (Cd) is frequently used in various industrial applications and is a ubiquitous environmental toxicant, also present in tobacco smoke. An important route of exposure is the circulatory system whereas blood vessels are considered to be main stream organs of Cd toxicity. Our previous results indicate that cadmium chloride (CdCl2) affects mean arterial blood pressure in hypertensive rats. We hypothesized that Cd alters the intracellular calcium transient mechanism, by cadmium-induced stimulation of MAPKs (ERK 1 & 2) which is mediated partially through calcium-dependent PKC mechanism. To investigate this hypothesis, we exposed primary cultures of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) from wistar kyoto (WKY) and spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) to increased concentrations of CdCl2 on cell viability, expression of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs/ERK 1 & 2), and protein kinase C (PKC) which are activated by Cd in several cell types. The results from these studies indicate that CdCl2 decreased cell viability of both SHR and WKY VSMCs in a concentration dependent-manner. Viability of both cell types decreased 33±5.3 (SHR) and 39±2.3% (WKY) when exposed to 1 μM CdCl2, whereas, 8 and 16 μM reduced viability by 66±3.1 and 62±4.5% in SHR cells. CdCl2 increased ERK 1 & 2 in a biphasic manner with maximum increase occurring when cells are exposed to 1 and 4 μM in SHR VSMCs, whereas, a reduction in ERK 1 and 2 is observed when WKY cells are treated with 2 μM. The results also indicate that CdCl2 increased PKC a/ß in both SHR and WKY VSMCs with a greater increase in expression in SHR VSMCs. In addition, the [Ca2+]i chelator, BAPTA, suppressed the CdCl2 effect, whereas, the PKC inhibitor, GF109203X, reduced the CdCl2 induced-effect on PKC expression. The present studies support the hypothesis that Cd can be a risk factor of hypertension through dysfunction of vascular smooth muscle cells under certain conditions.