Endothelial function deteriorates with aging. On the other hand, exercise training improves the function of vascular endothelial cells. Endothelin-1 (ET-1), which is produced by vascular endothelial cells, has potent constrictor and proliferative activity in vascular smooth muscle cells and, therefore, has been implicated in regulation of vascular tonus and progression of atherosclerosis. We previously reported significantly higher plasma ET-1 concentration in middle-aged than in young humans, and recently we showed that plasma ET-1 concentration was significantly decreased by aerobic exercise training in healthy young humans. We hypothesized that plasma ET-1 concentration increases with age, even in healthy adults, and that lifestyle modification (i.e., exercise) can reduce plasma ET-1 concentration in previously sedentary older adults. We measured plasma ET-1 concentration in healthy young women (21-28 yr old), healthy middle-aged women (31-47 yr old), and healthy older women (61-69 yr old). The plasma level of ET-1 significantly increased with aging (1.02 +/- 0.08, 1.33 +/- 0.11, and 2.90 +/- 0.20 pg/ml in young, middle-aged, and older women, respectively). Thus plasma ET-1 concentration was markedly higher in healthy older women than in healthy young or middle-aged women (by approximately 3- and 2-fold, respectively). In healthy older women, we also measured plasma ET-1 concentration after 3 mo of aerobic exercise (cycling on a leg ergometer at 80% of ventilatory threshold for 30 min, 5 days/wk). Regular exercise significantly decreased plasma ET-1 concentration in the healthy older women (2.22 +/- 0.16 pg/ml, P < 0.01) and also significantly reduced their blood pressure. The present study suggests that regular aerobic-endurance exercise reduces plasma ET-1 concentration in older humans, and this reduction in plasma ET-1 concentration may have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system (i.e., prevention of progression of hypertension and/or atherosclerosis by endogenous ET-1).