A hallmark of vascular disease is the inappropriate proliferative and synthetic behaviour of vascular smooth muscle cells. This phenotypically immature behaviour arises as a consequence of the myocytes undergoing phenotypic conversion and/or clonal proliferation of a "fetal" type of smooth muscle cell preexisting in the vessel wall. De-differentiation and initiation of proliferation is not only induced by endothelial desquamation and acute exposure of smooth muscle cells to platelet-derived mitogens, but also occurs in the uninjured blood vessel. Therefore normal components of the blood vessel are implicit in the pathological process. These include vasoconstrictor peptides, growth factor peptides and extracellular matrix molecules. In vitro and in vivo experimentation has indicated that while some of these compounds individually are only mild stimulators of smooth muscle proliferative metabolism, they may act synergistically to induce robust responses. Here we discuss the effects of the vasoconstrictor peptide angiotensin II, which can be locally generated within the vessel wall itself, on the expression of extracellular matrix molecules in vitro and in vivo. We focus on the angiotensin II-modulated expression of extracellular matrix glycoproteins, e.g. thrombospondin, tenascin, fibronectin and laminin.