The expression of mRNAs encoding endothelin-1 (ET-1) and its receptors (ETA-R and ETB-R) as well as the ET degrading enzyme, neutral endopeptidase 24.11 (NEP), was determined in tissue samples of endometrium, myometrium and leiomyoma by using a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technique. ET-1 mRNA was detected in all samples studied. The level of ET-1 mRNA was higher in endometrium than in myometrium (p < 0.01) and leiomyoma (p < 0.001). The ETA-R mRNA was more abundant in endometrium than in myometrium (p < 0.001). For ETB-R mRNA there was no difference between these tissues. In contrast to ETA-R mRNA, which was more abundant in leiomyoma than in myometrium (p < 0.01), the ETB-R mRNA was less abundant in leiomyoma (p < 0.01). The NEP mRNA was detected in all endometrial samples but not in myometrium and leiomyoma. Our results show that the expression and relative levels of mRNAs encoding ET-1, ETA-R, ETB-R, and NEP vary in different tissue compartments of the human uterus. Since the net biological action of ET-1 in a particular cell type presumably depends on the balance between the peptide itself, its receptors and degrading enzymes, these results suggest different roles for ET-1 action in uterine endometrium, myometrium and leiomyoma. The difference in relative abundance of ETA-R and ETB-R mRNAs between myometrium and leiomyoma suggests that an altered ET-R gene expression may be a contributing factor in myomal growth.