PTH-related protein (PTHrP) is produced in vascular smooth muscle, where it is postulated to exert vasorelaxant properties by activation of the PTH/PTHrP type 1 receptor. As a model for studying the actions of locally produced PTHrP in vascular smooth muscle in vivo, we developed transgenic mice that overexpress the PTH/PTHrP receptor (PTHrP-R) in smooth muscle. Oocyte injection with a SMP8-PTHrP-R fusion construct yielded six founder mice. F1 offspring were viable and demonstrated selective overexpression of the SMP8-PTHP-R messenger RNA in smooth muscle-rich tissues. Baseline blood pressure measured in conscious mice by tail sphygmomanometry was significantly lower in the receptor-overexpressing mice than that in controls (117 +/- 4 vs. 133 +/- 3 mm Hg; P < 0.05). In anesthetized animals, iv infusion of PTHrP-(1-34)NH2 caused a significantly greater reduction in blood pressure and total peripheral resistance in transgenic mice than in control animals. Vascular contractility was studied in paired, isometrically mounted aortas from 9-week-old transgenic and wild-type mice. The force of contraction in response to phenlyephrine was not significantly different between transgenic and wild-type mice. However, PTHrP-(1-34) NH2 relaxed aortic vessel preparations from transgenic mice to a greater extent than in controls (77.1 +/- 3% vs. 38.4 +/- 4%; P < 0.001). To determine the impact of overexpression of PTH/PTHrP type 1 receptor and its ligand on the development of the cardiovascular system, double transgenic mice were created by crossing SMP8-PTHrP-R transgenic mice with mice overexpressing PTHrP (SMP8-PTHrP). Double transgenic mice died around day E9 with abnormalities in the developing heart. In conclusion, overexpression of PTH/PTHrP type 1 receptor in vascular smooth muscle of transgenic mice reduces blood pressure, probably through sustained activation of the receptor by endogenous ligand. The cardiovascular defects observed in mice overexpressing both PTHrP and its receptor suggest that PTHrP may play a role in the normal development of the cardiovascular system.