This study demonstrates active production of adrenomedullin (AM) in cultured vascular endothelial cells (ECs). To identify the origin of plasma AM and its functional relationship to vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), we checked production of AM in a series of tissues and cell lines and found immunoreactive (ir-) AM in culture media of rat, porcine, human and bovine ECs. Ir-AM was accumulated linearly for up to 48 hours in the culture medium of rat ECs, and the secretion rate of AM was almost comparable to that of endothelin-1. By gel filtration and reverse phase high performance liquid chromatography, ir-AM in the culture medium was shown to have chromatographic behavior indistinguishable from that of synthetic rat AM. By RNA blot analysis of rat tissue, the most highly positive band was detected in cultured ECs, at an intensity 20 to 40 fold higher than that in adrenal gland. Based on these data as well as the presence of AM specific receptor on VSMCs, AM secreted from ECs is deduced to act directly on VSMCs, regulating vascular tone.