Infection with Trypanosoma cruzi causes a generalised vasculitis of several vascular beds. This vasculopathy is manifested by vasospasm, reduced blood flow, focal ischaemia, platelet thrombi, increased platelet aggregation and elevated plasma levels of thromboxane A(2) and endothelin-1. In the myocardium of infected mice, myonecrosis and a vasculitis of the aorta, coronary artery, smaller myocardial vessels and the endocardial endothelium are observed. Immunohistochemistry studies employing anti-endothelin-1 antibody revealed increased expression of endothelin-1, most intense in the endocardial and vascular endothelium. Elevated levels of mRNA for prepro endothelin-1, endothelin converting enzyme and endothelin-1 were observed in the infected myocardium. When T. cruzi-infected mice were treated with phosphoramidon, an inhibitor of endothelin converting enzyme, there was a decrease in heart size and severity of pathology. Mitogen-activated protein kinases and the transcription factor activator-protein-1 regulate the expression of endothelin-1. Therefore, we examined the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases in the myocardium by T. cruzi. Western blot demonstrated an extracellular signal regulated kinase. In addition, the activator-protein-1 DNA binding activity, as determined by electrophoretic mobility shift assay, was increased. Increased expression of cyclins A and cyclin D1 was observed in the myocardium, and immunohistochemistry studies revealed that interstitial cells and vascular and endocardial endothelial cells stained intensely with antibodies to these cyclins. These data demonstrate that T. cruzi infection of the myocardium activates extracellular signal regulated kinase, activator-protein-1, endothelin-1, and cyclins. The activation of these pathways is likely to contribute to the pathogenesis of chagasic heart disease. These experimental observations suggest that the vasculature plays a role in the pathogenesis of chagasic cardiomyopathy. Additionally, the identification of these pathways provides possible targets for therapeutic interventions to ameliorate or prevent the development of cardiomyopathy during T. cruzi infection.