Endothelial cells line the inner surface of blood vessels and act as the main barrier to the passage of cells and large molecules from the blood stream to the tissues. Recent interest in the part played by the endothelium in regulating vascular tone has focused on the synthesis and secretion of prostacyclin and an endothelium-derived relaxing factor. Endothelial cells respond to blood-borne agonist, but how the endothelium senses and responds to mechanical forces generated by the flow of blood under pressure is not known. Here we report patch-clamp recordings of ion channel activity from cell-attached membrane patches on aortic endothelial cells. In most of the patches examined, we observed unitary inward currents associated with the opening of a cation-selective channel (approximately 40 pS in standard saline). The channel is permeable to Ca2+ and its opening frequency increases when the membrane is stretched by applying suction through the patch electrode. The presence of mechanotransducing ion channels in endothelial cells may help explain how the endothelium mediates vascular responses to haemodynamic stresses.