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Higher cardiac zinc levels have been observed previously in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) compared with Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats. However, this difference was established in adult males only and needed to be confirmed on a larger number of animals of both sexes. We also explored the respective roles of genetic and environmental factors in the genesis of this zinc anomaly as well as the causal relations with hypertension.Cardiac zinc levels were determined in adult male and female SHR and WKY rats originating from various colonies and submitted to various experimental conditions (anaesthesia, stress). These determinations were also performed in 3-week prehypertensive SHR and in adult Wistar rats submitted or not to deoxycorticosterone acetate-salt-induced hypertension.Zinc levels were measured by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry.In adults, cardiac zinc content was significantly higher in SHR than in WKY rats irrespective of sex and experimental conditions. In young prehypertensive rats, the difference between SHR and WKY cardiac zinc levels was also very significant. Experimental hypertension induced in Wistar rats did not entail any significant rise in cardiac zinc levels.These findings indicated that the higher cardiac zinc of SHR is not secondary to blood pressure elevation. High erythrocyte zinc, previously described in SHR, together with the present data suggest the occurrence of a primary genetic defect leading to high intracellular zinc in SHR. The possible role of this zinc anomaly in the development of hypertension and/or cardiac hyperplasia is discussed.