A coarctation hypertensive rat model was used to examine the effects of elevated blood pressure on basement membrane component synthesis by cardiac myocytes and aorta using immunohistochemistry and Northern blot analysis. Carotid arterial pressure increased immediately on coarctation, and left ventricular hypertrophy was maximal within S days. In immunohistochemical studies, fibronectin and laminin were increased and the basement membrane chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan decreased in both the subendothelial space and smooth muscle cell basement membranes of the aorta above the clip compared with controls, whereas only fibronectin was elevated in the aorta below the clip. No change in basement membrane staining intensity for the cardiac myocytes was observed. Alterations in steady-state mRNA levels for fibronectin and laminin in the aorta paralleled those observed by immunohistochemical analysis with regard to protein and tissue type affected as well as intensity of the changes. However, changes in mRNA levels (but not protein deposition) for perlecan and type IV collagen were also observed in aortas from hypertensive rats compared with controls. Increases in steady-state mRNA levels for all basement membrane components in the heart and vasculature peaked before maximal cardiac hypertrophy (5 days). These studies indicate that alterations in basement membrane component deposition in the hypertrophied vasculature occur at both transcriptional and translational levels and suggest that the cell attachment glycoproteins fibronectin and laminin may be important factors in the vascular response to elevated transmural pressure.