The function of vascular endothelium as a biomechanical sensor permits alterations in gene expression in the vascular tree in response to wall stress. The present study explored the mechanism by which the arterial endothelium responds to changes in dietary salt. Normotensive rats were fed diets containing varying amounts of NaC-for 4 days. At that time, levels of phosphorylated p38 MAP kinase, p42/44 MAP kinase, and p46/54 JNK/SAP kinase increased when the diet contained ≥3.0% NaC. Kinase assays demonstrated dose-response relationships between dietary salt intake and the activities of p38 MAP kinase and p42/44 MAP kinase. Aortic segments from animals on the 8.0% NaC-diet produced greater amounts of total and active transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-β1) and nitric oxide. The MEK1 inhibitor, PD-098059, and the p38 MAP kinase inhibitor, SB-203580, decreased production of these bioactive compounds to background levels. Intravenous injection of tetraethylammonium chloride (TEA) into rats on the 8.0% NaC-diet decreased the activities of p38 MAP kinase and p42/44 MAP kinase, compared with rats on the same diet and given vehicle intravenously. These findings provided direct evidence that dietary salt modulated gene expression in the arterial wall through a tetraethylammonium-sensitive mechanism and activation of the p38 and p42/44 MAP kinase pathways.