We have identified and characterized pharmacologically alpha-1 adrenergic receptors in aorta from dog and rat utilizing two alpha-1 antagonists, [3H]prazosin and beta-3-iodo[125I]-4-hydroxyphenyl-ethyl-aminoethyl-tetralone [125I]HEAT, to determine receptor number and affinity. The rat and dog alpha-1 receptors were found to be very similar. In the dog, KD values were 27 and 11 pM for [3H]prazosin and [125I]HEAT, respectively, whereas maximum binding values were 89 and 65 fmol/mg of protein. KD values in rat aorta were 22 and 15 pM for [3H]prazosin and [125I]HEAT, respectively, whereas maximum binding values were 62 and 47 fmol/mg of protein. Both tissues demonstrated a rank order potency of antagonist inhibition of the two radioligands consistent with an alpha-1 adrenergic receptor with prazosin greater than phentolamine greater than yohimbine. A comparison between IC50 values for both the ligands and the tissues shows strong correlations suggesting the two radioligands are identifying a similar receptor population and that the receptor labeled by the ligands has similar pharmacologic characteristics in the two tissues.