Isomers of octopamine were tested for in vitro alpha-adrenergic stimulation of aortic smooth muscle of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). In order to test the response of alpha 1-adrenoceptors to meta-, para-, and ortho-octopamine, alpha 2-adrenoceptors were blocked with 10(-7) M yohimbine, and to measure the response of alpha 2-adrenoceptors the alpha 1-adrenoceptors were blocked with 10(-7) M prazosin. The contractile response of aortic smooth muscle of SHR to stimulation by phenylephrine, m-, p-, and o-isomers of octopamine in the presence of yohimbine was not appreciably altered. However, administration of prazosin severely attenuated the response of muscles of these compounds indicating that like phenylephrine, the isomers of octopamine stimulate mainly alpha 1-adrenoceptors. The attenuation of contractile response to isomers of octopamine in the presence of prazosin was not as pronounced as in the case of phenylephrine. The comparative potencies of phenylephrine, m-, p-, and o-octopamine in the presence of 10(-7) M prazosin were 1:1.2:2.5:0.75, respectively. Thus, it appears that the isomers of octopamine, especially para- and meta-octopamine, play a much more important role in the physiology of vascular smooth muscle than has been thus far perceived.