Endothelins play a role in the regulation of astrocytic functions in brain pathologies such as hyperplasia and neurotrophic factor production. The present study examined the effects of endothelins on production of neurotrophin-3, a member of the neurotrophin family of neurotrophic factors, in cultured astrocytes and rat brain. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR analysis of mRNA copy numbers showed that cultured astrocytes expressed comparable numbers of neurotrophin-3 and neurotrophin-4/5 mRNA copies to nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Endothelin-1 (100 nM) and Ala1,3,11,15-endothelin-1 (an endothelinB receptor agonist, 100 nM) caused a transient increase in neurotrophin-3 mRNA levels, but not in neurotrophin-4/5 levels, in cultured astrocytes. The increases in mRNA levels were accompanied with that in extracellular release of neurotrophin-3. The effects of endothelin-1 on neurotrophin-3 mRNA levels were reduced by BQ788, an endothelinB receptor antagonist. I.c.v. administration of 500 pmol/day Ala1,3,11,15-endothelin-1 increased mRNA and peptide levels of neurotrophin-3 in rat caudate putamen and cerebrum. On the other hand, neurotrophin-3 production in hippocampus was not affected by Ala1,3,11,15-endothelin-1. Immunohistochemical examination of Ala1,3,11,15-endothelin-1-infused rats showed that neurotrophin-3 was mainly expressed in glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive astrocytes in caudate putamen and cerebrum. endothelin-induced increases in neurotrophin-3 expression in cultured astrocytes were inhibited by chelation of intracellular Ca2+ and PD98095 (an ERK inhibitor). These results suggest that endothelin is an extracellular signal that stimulates astrocytic neurotrophin-3 production in brain pathologies.