The isoprostanes are nonenzymatically generated prostanoids synthesized in vivo in humans and rats through reactions catalyzed by free oxygen radicals. 8-Epi-prostaglandin F2 alpha (8-epi-PGF2 alpha), an F2-isoprostane, is a potent smooth muscle constrictor. A thromboxane A2 (TxA2) receptor antagonist, SQ 29548, blocks renal vasoconstriction during 8-epi-PGF2 alpha administration in rats. With the use of cultured rat aortic smooth muscle cells, we found specific binding sites for [3H]SQ 29548 and for [125I]BOP, a TxA2 agonist. Both ligands were displaced from these binding sites by 8-epi-PGF2 alpha, although with significantly lesser potency than nonlabeled SQ 29548, I-BOP, or U-46619, a TxA2 agonist. In contrast, 8-epi-PGF2 alpha stimulated inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate production and DNA synthesis in these cells with significantly greater potency than any TxA2 agonist, effects only partially inhibited by SQ 29548. In human TxA2 receptor cDNA-transfected cells, competition by 8-epi-PGF2 alpha for specific [3H]SQ 29548 binding was negligible. Thus 8-epi-PGF2 alpha probably exerts its biological actions in vascular smooth muscle through activation of receptor sites related to but distinct from TxA2 receptors. The existence of such binding sites suggests novel avenues for investigation into the biology of TxA2 and of free radical-mediated tissue injury.