Transplant immunosuppression using either cyclosporine (CsA) or FK506 leads to renal vasoconstriction. To examine the role of endothelin (ET) in this process, we measured plasma and urinary ET before and at intervals for two years after liver transplantation. Urinary prostacyclin (as 6-keto-PG-F1 alpha), thromboxane, glomerular filtration rate and renal plasma flow were also measured. Forty-four patients were treated with CsA-based regimens and 31 patients with FK506-based regimens. Prednisone doses after one year were lower with FK506 (5.5 +/- 0.5 vs. 10.5 +/- 0.5 mg/day) by study design. Circulating plasma ET remained above normal, but not different from pre-transplant levels. Urinary ET was elevated before transplant (24.6 +/- 3.4 ng/day vs. normal 16 +/- 1.5 ng/day, P < 0.05) and rose further after transplantation (48.5 +/- 13 ng/day, P < 0.05), remaining elevated for two years. 6-keto-PG-F1 alpha fell from 2567 +/- 338 ng/day to subnormal levels and remained suppressed (1158 +/- 128 ng/day, P < 0.01). Over the same period GFR fell (84 +/- 3 ml/min to 60 +/- 3 ml/min, P < 0.01) and renal vascular resistance index rose (11,119 +/- 561 to 23,279 +/- 1692 d.s.cm-5.m-2, P < 0.01). Similar changes were observed both with CsA and FK506-based immunosuppression. No changes in ET were attributable to dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers. These results demonstrate that urinary ET changes independently from plasma ET after transplantation. Elevated ET and suppression of endothelium-derived prostacyclin persist with intense renal vasoconstriction for at least two years after transplant.