Recently, a potent vasoconstrictor peptide, endothelin (EDT), was isolated from vascular endothelial cells. We examined its effect on rat vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). EDT induced the elevation of intracellular calcium, which was dependent on extracellular calcium and inhibited by a calcium-channel antagonist in a competitive manner. EDT caused a rapid and transient increase in the c-fos and c-myc mRNA levels and stimulated the DNA synthesis of VSMCs in a dose-dependent manner. This effect of EDT on the proliferation of VSMCs might be related to the development of atherosclerosis.