Based on past studies of an experimental model of severe intrauterine pulmonary hypertension, we hypothesized that endothelin-1 (ET-1) contributes to high pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR), hypertensive lung structural changes, and right ventricular hypertrophy (RVH) caused by prolonged closure of the ductus arteriosus. To test this hypothesis, we studied the effects of BQ 123, a selective ET(A) receptor antagonist, after ligation of the ductus arteriosus in utero. In 19 late gestation fetal lambs (126+/-3 d; 147 d, term) we ligated the ductus arteriosus at surgery, and treated animals with either BQ 123 (1 mg/d) or vehicle (0.1% DMSO, HTN) in the pulmonary artery for 8 d. Chronic BQ 123 treatment attenuated the rise in mean pulmonary artery pressure (PAP) 8 d after ductus arteriosus ligation (78+/-2, HTN vs. 70+/-4 mmHg, BQ 123, P < 0.05). To study the effects of ET(A) blockade at birth, 15 animals were delivered by cesarean section and ventilated with 10% oxygen (O2), 100% O2 and inhaled nitric oxide (NO). Lambs treated with BQ 123 had lower PVR after delivery during ventilation with 10% O2, 100% O2, and inhaled NO (HTN vs. BQ 123, P < 0.05 for each intervention). Acute BQ 123 treatment (2 mg/30 min) lowered PVR in three HTN animals ventilated with 100% O2 and inhaled NO (P < 0.05). Chronic BQ 123 treatment prevented the development of RVH as determined by the ratio of the right ventricle/left ventricle + septum (0.79+/-0.03, HTN vs. 0.57+/-0.06, BQ 123, P < 0.05) and attenuated the increase in wall thickness of small pulmonary arteries (61+/-2, HTN vs. 50+/-2%, BQ 123, P < 0.05). In summary, chronic intrauterine ET(A) receptor blockade decreased PAP in utero, decreased RVH and distal muscularization of small pulmonary arteries, and increased the fall in PVR at delivery. We conclude that ET(A) receptor stimulation contributes to the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of experimental perinatal pulmonary hypertension.