The aim of this study was to determine the phenotype of smooth muscle cells in the arteries of chronically hypertensive animals and to analyze the effects of treatments known to increase the survival of the animal without a clear effect on its hypertensive state. Stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRSP) kept on a 1% sodium drinking solution were untreated or treated with one of two diuretics, indapamide (3 mg/kg per day) or hydrochlorothiazide (20 mg/kg per day), from 6 to 13 weeks of age. Phenotype was characterized by the immunolabeling of arteries with antibodies raised against a cellular form (EIIIA) of fibronectin, α-smooth muscle actin, and nonmuscle myosin. We demonstrated that phenotypes of smooth muscle cells of the SHRSP differ from those found in Wistar-Kyoto rats. The difference in phenotype is specific for the vessel type: ie, an increased expression of nonmuscle myosin in the aorta and of both EIIIA fibronectin and nonmuscle myosin in the coronary arteries. The two diuretics (1) had no effect on blood pressure, (2) prevented or did not prevent the increase in medial thickness, and (3) prevented changes in both smooth muscle cell phenotype and ischemic tissular lesions. Taken together, the results suggest that in SHRSP the changes in the phenotype of smooth muscle cells and the thickness of arteries are unrelated events. We propose that the maintenance of the contractile phenotype of the arterial smooth muscle cells could be an essential parameter involved in the prevention of the deleterious consequences characteristic of a severe hypertensive state.