Cultured vascular smooth muscle cells express distinct histological phenotypes due to a contractile to synthetic stage transition. In this study, we compared the behaviour of cultured aortic smooth muscle cells from young normal and mdx mice. Morphological, immunobiochemical, immunocytochemical analyses and contraction studies of these cells demonstrated that (i) the cell cytoskeleton in mdx mice is not affected by the absence of dystrophin since proteins such as caldesmon, a-actin, and vinculin are expressed similarly in normal mice, (ii) utrophin (or dystrophin-related protein) overexpression does not compensate for the physiological and functional role of the lacking dystrophin. These data suggested that dystrophin and utrophin cannot substitute one another and may play different or complementary roles within smooth muscle cells.