We investigated the potential role of Raf-1 kinase in mesenteric arterial contraction. Inhibitors of Raf-1 kinase, GW5074, L779450 and ZM 336372 reversed phenylephrine (PE)-induced mesenteric vascular contraction. Studies in vivo in rats showed that GW5074 inhibited PE-induced increase in mean arterial pressure in adult female Sprague-Dawley rats. Isometric tension studies in mesenteric arteries of rats showed that GW5074 did not change the KCl-evoked contraction but significantly inhibited the contractions to PE, 5-HT, U46619, endothelin 1, angiotensin II and phorbol 12, 13-dibutyrate (PDBu). In mesenteric vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), PE stimulated increase in Raf-1 phosphorylation which was inhibited by GW5074. Measurement of [Ca(2+)](i) with Fura-2 showed that GW5074-mediated inhibition of PE-induced contraction was not associated with decreases in [Ca(2+)](i). VSMCs treated with PE exhibited higher levels of the contractile proteins, p-MYPT1 and p-MLC(20), which was inhibited by GW5074. Similarly, PDBu induced increases in phosphorylation of Raf-1, MLC(20) and MYPT1 and this was inhibited by GW5074. However, GW5074 did not have any significant effect on PE/PDBu-induced MEK/ERK activation. The results indicate that Raf-1 kinase plays an important role in the regulation of vascular contractility through regulation of calcium sensitization.