We observed changes of endothelin content and endothelin mRNA in vivo in vascular calcification and in vitro in calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells to explore the role of endothelin in vascular calcification. Calcification model in vivo was induced by administration of Vitamin D(3) plus nicotine. Calcification of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) was induced by beta-glycerophosphate. Endothelin content was measured by using radioimmunoassay. Endothelin mRNA amount was determined by using competitive quantitative RT-PCR. The results showed that calcium content, 45Ca(2+) uptake and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity were increased in calcified VSMCs, compared with controls, but were decreased, compared with calcified VSMCs plus BQ123 group. The endothelin content in the medium and endothelin mRNA in VSMCs were elevated by 35 and 120% (P<0.05), respectively, compared with those normal VSMCs. Calcium content, 45Ca(2+) accumulation and ALP activity in calcified arteries increased by 5.0-, 1.4-, and 1.4-fold. The endothelin levels in plasma and aorta as well as the amount of endothelin mRNA in calcified aorta were increased by 102, 103, and 22%, respectively, compared with control group. However, calcium content, 45Ca(2+) uptake and ALP activity in VDN plus bosentan group was 33, 36.7, and 40.4% lower than those in VDN group. These results indicated an upregulated endothelin gene expression as well as an increased production of endothelin in calcified aorta and VSMCs with BQ123 and bosentan significantly reducing vascular calcification. This suggested that endothelin might be involved in pathogenesis of vascular calcification.