Cells with irregular shapes, numerous long thin filaments, and morphological similarities to the gastrointestinal interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs) have been observed in the wall of some blood vessels. These ICC-like cells (ICC-LCs) do not correspond to the other cell types present in the arterial wall: smooth muscle cells (SMCs), endothelial cells, fibroblasts, inflammatory cells, or pericytes. However, no clear physiological role has as yet been determined for ICC-LCs in the vascular wall. The aim of this study has been to identify and characterize the functional response of ICC-LCs in rat mesenteric arteries. We have observed ICC-LCs and identified them morphologically and histologically in three different environments: isolated artery, freshly dispersed cells, and primary-cultured cells from the arterial wall. Like ICCs but unlike SMCs, ICC-LCs are positively stained by methylene blue. Cells morphologically resembling methylene-blue-positive cells are also positive for the ICC and ICC-LC markers alpha-smooth muscle actin and desmin. Furthermore, the higher expression of vimentin in ICC-LCs compared with SMCs allows a clear discrimination between these two cell types. At the functional level, the differences observed in the variations of cytosolic free calcium concentration of freshly dispersed SMCs and ICC-LCs in response to a panel of vasoactive molecules show that ICC-LCs, unlike SMCs, do not respond to exogenous ATP and [Arginine](8)-vasopressin.