Abstract. The expression of actin-isoform mRNAs in the smooth muscle cells (SMC) of the aortic media in rats has been studied by Northern-blot hybridization, using a general actin-cRNA probe, and two cRNA probes specific for β- and γ-cytoplasmic actins, during: (1) development, (2) intimal thickening after endothelial injury induced by balloon catheterization, and (3) growth in culture. In 5-day-old rats, the ratio between α-smooth-muscle-actin mRNA and β- and γ-cytoplasmic-actin mRNAs was close to 1. It increased to about 4 in 6-week-old rats. Replicating SMC from regions of intimal thickening 15 days after endothelial injury, and SMC growing in culture contained a predominance of cytoplasmic actin mRNAs. Intimal SMC 60 days after endothelial injury (at which time the endothelium had fully regenerated) demonstrated a pattern of actin mRNAs similar to that of normal media. Functional mRNA measured by translation in a reticulocyte lysate showed increases in the level of α-actin and decreases in β-actin in rats from 5 days to 6 weeks of age. These results suggest that during development, under pathological conditions, and in cell culture, the expression of actin isoforms in arterial SMC depends on many factors, including the amount and translation efficiency of mRNAs, and the relative stabilities of the proteins involved.