The potent vascular, cardiac, and renal actions of endothelin-1 (ET-1) suggest a role for this vasoconstrictor peptide in the pathophysiology of heart failure (HF). Recent studies have shown increased levels of ET-1 peptide accompanied by increased ETB receptor binding in the left ventricle during experimental HF. However, much less is known about the regulation of mRNA expression of these genes in HF. We compared the levels of mRNA expression for ET-1 and ET receptors (ETA and ETB) in the left ventricle of rats with HF induced by coronary artery ligation (n = 6) vs. sham-operated animals (n = 6). Levels of mRNA for ET-1 were determined by ribonuclease protection assay (RPA) using beta-actin as the internal control, whereas ET receptors were quantified by quantitative-competitive RT-PCR. Compared with sham animals, ET-1, ETA, and ETB receptor mRNA levels were markedly upregulated in the left ventricle by 6.6 +/- 1.8-fold (p < 0.01), 3.2 +/- 0.6-fold (p < 0.05), and 3.5 +/- 1.0-fold (p < 0.05), respectively. ET-1 mRNA levels were measured in two additional groups of rats (HF and sham; n = 6 each) treated for 4 weeks with the selective ETA receptor antagonist LU135252. This treatment had no significant effect on ET-1 mRNA expression in sham animals but reduced the upregulation of ET-1 expression in the HF group by 41 +/- 19% (p < 0.05). This study confirms the potential importance of ET-1 in HF and suggests that increased expression of ET-1 and ET receptors in the failing ventricle may contribute to alteration in basal cardiac contractility and myocardial remodeling.