Cell size and incidence of multinucleated, polyploid cells in cultured aortic smooth muscle cells from different age groups of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and normotensive Wistar–Kyoto rats (WKY) were compared. Smooth muscle cells from SHR were generally larger than those from WKY, and the percentage of multinucleated smooth muscle cells was always higher in SHR than WKY in the three age groups of rats studied (3–4, 10–12, and 28–30 weeks). In smooth muscle cells from the 3- to 4-week group, there was a positive correlation between cell diameter and the percentage of multinucleated smooth muscle cells. Microdensitometric measurements also showed that the incidence of polyploid smooth muscle cells was always higher in SHR than WKY in the three age groups. There was a positive correlation between DNA density and nuclear area measurements in all the age groups of SHR and WKY. We conclude that cultured aortic smooth muscle cells from different age groups of SHR and WKY contained heterogeneous populations of cells and that, under our culture conditions, the polyploidy of the smooth muscle cells found in vivo was maintained in the SHR and WKY.Key words: hypertension, cultured smooth muscle cells, aorta, polyploidy.