The presence of time-dependent variations in the in vitro sensitivity of aorta preparations to either vasoconstricting or relaxing agents was investigated in rats maintained in light for 08:00 to 20:00 and in darkness from 20:00 to 08:00. Rat thoracic aorta rings were obtained from animals sacrificed at four different times of the day. The rat aorta was found to be sensitive to the constricting effect of phenylephrine at 15:00, and of 5-hydroxytryptamine at 21:00. On the other hand, both endothelium-dependent and -independent relaxations were more remarkable at 03:00 than at other times of the day. These variations represented significant circadian rhythms when analyzed by analysis of variance. Different in vitro responsiveness to these agents might reflect changes in the sensitivity and/or number of related receptors in vascular preparations. In conclusion, the circadian time of animal sacrifice to obtain vascular preparations constitutes an important aspect of the research method and a key determinant of findings.