Although the effects of endothelin-1 (ET-1) on intact or perfused adult kidney are well understood, its effects in the fetus and the newborn have not been well studied. We examined the effects of infusions of 25, 50, and 100 ng/kg of ET-1 per minute on mean blood pressure (MBP), cardiac index (CI), renal blood flow (RBF), glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and urine volume (UV) in 7- to 10-day-old piglets (n = 24). In addition, the effects of pretreatment with a receptor antagonist (BQ-123) and with a cyclooxygenase inhibitor (indomethacin) were studied in 12 separate piglets. ET-1 produced a dose- and level-dependent decrease in CI (60%), RBF (50% to 75%), GFR (66% to 80%) and MBP 15% to 17%. These changes returned to 75% to 80% of baseline 60 minutes after discontinuation of ET-1. Low-dose infusion (25 ng/kg) did not result in any changes in systemic or renal hemodynamics. Plasma half-life of ET-1 in piglets was 2.1 +/- 0.4 minutes. Pretreatment with the specific ETA receptor antagonist BQ-123 completely blocked the ET-1-induced systemic and renal hemodynamic changes. Indomethacin blocked the ET-1-induced rise in MBP but failed to block any renal changes. In fact, indomethacin accentuated the changes induced by ET-1, especially the changes in RBF, RVR, and GFR. Studies of receptor binding in the renal cortex and medulla showed that, in the cortex, the Ki value for ET-1 was 6.32 +/- 1.57, and for ET-3 it was 20.05 +/- 4.38 (p < 0.05); in the medulla, the Ki values were similar for both ET-1 and ET-3. These results indicate that in piglets the renal vascular bed is highly sensitive to ET-1, and its effects are predominantly mediated through ETA receptors.