Essential hypertension is primarily hereditary. The property inherited is present in all cells but because of adaptation and differentiation it is particularly prominent in systemic vascular smooth muscle. This inherited property is manifested functionally as increased reactivity to vasoactive substances, such as (-)noradrenaline and angiotensin II. This abnormal function is present before the onset of hypertension. Vascular hypertrophy and hyperplasia are not only caused by hyperactivity of the smooth muscle and by the hypertension itself but are also trophic effect of the agonists, especially noradrenaline. The only two proteins in vascular smooth muscle which can produce both contractile and trophic effects are the guanosine triphosphate binding protein (Gs) and phospholipase C. Phospholipase C has already been demonstrated to be abnormally active in response to agonists in the spontaneously hypertensive rat and in human essential hypertension. The Gs protein is less likely to be critically abnormal since it is active in the vascular smooth muscle relaxation cascade as well as in contraction. None of the other proteins involved in vascular smooth muscle contraction or relaxation affect both contractile reactivity and cellular growth. There are many secondary effects dependent upon the phospholipase C abnormality such as calcium (Ca2+) cellular content, Ca2+ Mg2+ ATPase pump effects and possibly Ca2+ Na+ exchange. There are also many secondary effects impinging on the phospholipase C abnormality including changes in noradrenaline and angiotensin II metabolism. Present antihypertensive therapy is directed largely at secondary factors dependent upon or influencing the primary phospholipase C cascade. The path is now open for a more direct and basic diagnostic and therapeutic attack.