Despite intense study preeclampsia remains enigmatic and a major cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Most investigative efforts have focused on the hypertensive component of this disorder with reduced attention given to other equally important characteristics. Increased sensitivity to pressor agents and activation of the coagulation cascade occur early in the course of preeclampsia, often antedating clinically recognizable disease. Inasmuch as endothelial cell injury reduces the synthesis of vasorelaxing agents, increases the production of vasoconstrictors, impairs synthesis of endogenous anticoagulants, and increases procoagulant production, these cells are likely to be implicated in the pathophysiology of preeclampsia. Indeed, evidence of endothelial cell injury is provided by the most characteristic morphologic lesion of preeclampsia, glomerular endotheliosis. Additional support for this hypothesis is derived from reports that indicate increased levels of circulating fibronectin (which can be released from injured endothelial cells) and increased factor VIII antigen present in the blood of preeclamptic women. More recently, direct evidence of activities that injure endothelial cells in vitro and increase the contractile sensitivity of isolated vessels has been presented. We propose that poorly perfused placental tissue releases a factor(s) into the systemic circulation that injuries endothelial cells. The changes initiated by endothelial cell injury set in motion a dysfunctional cascade of coagulation, vasoconstriction, and intravascular fluid redistribution that results in the clinical syndrome of preeclampsia.