Apelin is a novel peptide that acts through the APJ receptor, sharing similarities with the angiotensin II-angiotensin II type 1 receptor pathway. It is a peripheral vasodilator, powerful inotrope and may affect central fluid homeostasis. Animal and human studies suggest that it may play a role in the pathogenesis of heart failure by modulating the harmful effects of angiotensin II. Apelin is reduced in patients with heart failure and up regulated following favourable left ventricular remodelling. It is widely distributed in a number of tissues, mainly restricted to vascular endothelium. This comprehensive review of the literature highlights the important studies that have led to the discovery of apelin and its role in cardiovascular function and heart failure.