This study identifies the microvascular target of leukotriene E4 (LTE4) by vascular labeling with carbon black and establishes the mechanism of its action at the cellular level by electron microscopy. LTE4 and its tripeptide precursor, leukotriene C4 (LTC4) were injected subcutaneously in guinea pigs. With LTE4, venular labeling was intense at 1000 and 100 ng and slight at 10 ng, with extinction at 1 ng. LTC4 induced a ring of labeled venules around a blank central area, suggestive of vasospasm. The nonpeptidyl leukotriene LTB4 induced no labeling. Histamine (1000 ng) induced an area of vascular labeling about equal to that by 1000 ng LTE4, but the labeling of individual venules was more intense. By electron microscopy, LTE4 was found to induce gaps in the endothelium of the venules; the endothelial cells adjacent to the gaps bulged into the lumen and showed wrinkled nuclei, consistent with cellular contraction. This ultrastructural evidence suggests that LTE4 increases vascular permeability by contraction of endothelial cells selectively, in the postcapillary venules, as was previously demonstrated for other inflammatory mediators, including histamine, serotonin, and bradykinin.