The contractility of vascular smooth muscle cells within the walls of arteries is regulated by mechanical stresses and vasoactive signals. Transduction of these diverse stimuli into a cellular response is through many different mechanisms, one of which is reorganisation of the actin cytoskeleton. In addition to a structural role in maintaining cellular architecture it is now clear that the actin cytoskeleton of contractile vascular smooth muscle cells is a dynamic structure reacting to changes in the cellular environment. Equally clear is that disrupting the cytoskeleton or interfering with its rearrangement, has profound effects on artery contractility. The actin cytoskeleton associates with dense plaques, also called focal adhesions, at the plasma membrane of smooth muscle cells. Vasoconstrictors and mechanical stress induce remodelling of the focal adhesions, concomitant with cytoskeletal reorganisation. Recent work has shown that non-receptor tyrosine kinases and tyrosine phosphorylation of focal adhesion proteins such as paxillin and Hic-5 are important for actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesion remodelling and contraction. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.