We previously reported that cardiomyocytes produce endothelin (ET)-1 and that the tissue level of ET-1 markedly increased in failing hearts in rats with chronic heart failure. Because the level of plasma ET-1 also increased progressively in patients with breast cancer who received doxorubicin (Dox; Adriamycin), which possesses cardiotoxicity, we hypothesized that ET-1 plays a role in the pathophysiology of cardiomyocytes injured by Dox. In this study, we investigated the effect of ET-1 on the cytotoxicity of Dox in primary cultured neonatal rat cardiomyocytes. The results showed that ET-1 effectively attenuated Dox-induced acute cardiomyocyte cytotoxicity (24-h incubation with Dox) evaluated by in vitro cell toxicity assay [3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay and lactate dehydrogenase release]. The cytoprotective effect of ET-1 was mediated via ET(A) receptors, because pretreatment with the ET(A)-receptor antagonist BQ123 completely suppressed the cytoprotective effect of ET-1, whereas the ET(B)-receptor antagonist BQ788 did not. The cytoprotective effect of ET-1 was abolished by pretreatment with cycloheximide or staurosporine. These results suggest that a protein molecule(s), which is synthesized de novo by the stimulation of protein kinase pathway, is involved in the cytoprotective effect of ET-1. ET-1 increased the expression of an endogenous antioxidant, manganese superoxide dismutase (Mn-SOD), in the cardiomyocytes, as demonstrated by a Western blotting analysis. Pretreatment with an antisense oligodeoxyribonucleotide of Mn-SOD markedly attenuated the cytoprotective effect of ET-1 on the Dox-induced cytotoxicity. However, under conditions of prolonged incubation with Dox (48 h), ET-1 did not affect Dox-induced cardiomyocyte cytotoxicity in culture. These results suggest that ET-1 prevents the early phase of Dox-induced cytotoxicity via the upregulation of the antioxidant Mn-SOD through ET(A) receptors in cultured cardiomyocytes.