We examined which subtypes of alpha 1-adrenoceptors are expressed in rat vena cava by using both functional and [3H]prazosin binding experiments. Pretreatment with chloroethylclonidine inactivated about 80% of the specific [3H]prazosin binding sites and reduced the maximal noradrenaline-induced contraction to the same extent. Competition with subtype-selective agonists and antagonists showed primarily the alpha 1B-adrenoceptor subtype in vena cava. The number of alpha 1-adrenoceptors estimated with [3H]prazosin binding and the maximal noradrenaline-induced contraction were dose-dependently inhibited by phenoxybenzamine, indicating the absence of receptor reserve for noradrenaline in vena cava. As the noradrenaline-induced contraction was largely inhibited in Ca(2+)-free solution, these results suggest that alpha 1B-adrenoceptors can be mainly linked to Ca2+ influx in rat vena cava.