The regulation of the inositide signalling pathway and [Ca2+]i by endothelin (ET) peptides was investigated in human glomerular epithelial cells in culture. Endothelin-1 and -2 induced an accumulation of inositol phosphates in a time- and dose-dependent manner. The baseline of [Ca2+]i in glomerular epithelial cells was 109 +/- 2.8 nmol/l, n = 60. Endothelin-1 (ED50: approx. 3 x 10(-9) mol/l) caused a rapid and transient rise in [Ca2+]i as detected by fura-2 microfluorimetry studies. The endothelin-1-induced inositol phosphate accumulation was inhibited by the selective ETA receptor antagonist BQ123. Endothelin-3 and BQ3020, a selective ETB receptor agonist, showed no effect. The results suggest an ETA-mediated pathway. This study demonstrates an ETA-mediated transmembrane signalling via phospholipase C with consecutive elevation of inositol phosphates and intracellular calcium. Since endothelin peptides contribute to both normal renal function and renal dysfunction, this study adds further knowledge on glomerular cell regulation.