Endothelin-1 is a recently discovered peptide mainly released from endothelial cells. Hypoxia and ischemia as well as numerous factors such as angiotensin 11, thrombin and transforming growth factor beta 1 stimulate the formation of the peptide. On the other hand the synthesis of endothelin is inhibited by nitric oxide and atrial natriuretic peptide via the formation of cyclic guanosine monophosphate. Released from endothelial cells endothelin-1 mediates transient vasodilation followed by a profound and longlasting vasoconstriction. Endothelin is also a mitogen for smooth muscle proliferation. Endothelins exert their biological effects via activation of specific receptors. Two different receptors have been cloned from mammalian tissues (ET(A) and ET(B) receptors). On vascular smooth muscle cells both receptors mediate contractions. Endothelial cells only express ET(B) receptors linked to the formation of nitric oxide and/or prostacyclin formation. Increased plasma concentrations of endothelin-1 have been described in a variety of diseases such as pulmonary hypertension, arteriosclerosis, renal failure, acute coronary syndromes, heart failure, migraine and vascular diseases. Recently an increasing number of endothelin receptor antagonists have been synthetized, which have been shown to inhibit endothelin-mediated vasoconstriction. Clinical studies are now ongoing to elucidate the pathophysiologic role of endothelin and the potential benefit of the blockade of the system in different disease states.