Epidemiological studies have linked the consumption of phenolic acids with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. In the present study, we sought to investigate whether caffeic acid, a phenolic acid which is abundant in normal diet, can antagonize angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRSP) and Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats, and if so, to elucidate the underlying cell signaling mechanisms. We exposed VSMCs to Ang II and caffeic acid and found that caffeic acid significantly inhibited intracellular superoxide anion generation (decreased from 127 +/- 6.3% to 100.3 +/- 6.6% of the control cells) and the cell proliferation induced by Ang II. Furthermore, caffeic acid significantly abolished the tyrosine phosphorylation of JAK2 (decreased from 7.4 +/- 0.6-fold to 2.4 +/- 0.6-fold at 2 min) and STAT1 (decreased from 1.8 +/- 0.2-fold to 0.5 +/- 0.1-fold at 2 min) and the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 (decreased from 99.2 +/- 10.2-fold to 49.8 +/- 10.9-fold at 2 min) that were induced by Ang II. These effects of caffeic acid were consistent with the inhibition of the proliferation of VSMCs by DPI, an NADPH oxidase inhibitor, and by AG-490, a JAK2 inhibitor. In conclusion, our findings suggest that caffeic acid attenuates the proliferative reaction of VSMCs to Ang II stimulation in both SHRSP and WKY rats by inhibiting the generation of reactive oxygen species and then partially blocking the JAK/STAT signaling cascade and the Ras/Raf-1/ERK1/2 cascade.