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This review addresses a rapidly growing body of evidence suggesting that enhanced protein tyrosine phosphorylation may be a previously unrecognized mechanism for coupling receptor activation of vascular smooth muscle cells to increases in the intracellular concentration of Ca2+ and contraction. The hypothesis proposes that activation of diverse types of receptors that are not tyrosine kinase promotes stimulation of a cytosolic tyrosine kinase. In turn, the activated kinase induces tyrosine phosphorylation of substrates that are linked to regulatory mechanisms for release of intracellular Ca2+ stored in the sarcoplasmic reticulum and to regulatory mechanisms for influx of extracellular Ca2+. Within this framework, we examine some relevant functional aspects of receptor and nonreceptor tyrosine kinases in different types of cells, the emerging relationships between tyrosine kinase activity and regulation of intracellular Ca2+. We review studies of nonreceptor tyrosine kinase activity in vascular smooth muscle cells suggesting that a physiologically relevant kinase may be the enzyme called pp60c-src. Data that appear to link tyrosine phosphorylation to contraction of smooth muscle are examined, particularly with respect to results obtained with tyrosine kinase inhibitors and measures of changes in tyrosine phosphorylation. Next, we review studies with cultured vascular smooth muscle cells that point to potential coupling between receptor activation, enhanced tyrosine phosphorylation of substrates such as the GTPase activating protein for ras, and the γ-1 isoform of phospholipase C, and mechanisms controlling Ca2+ influx and release. Emphasis is placed on examining the strengths and weaknesses of different experimental approaches. Lastly, a summary of the data is provided which calls attention to some major issues requiring resolution to permit acceptance or rejection of the underlying hypothesis, and we briefly address some of its possible pathophysiological implications.