OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to investigate whether endothelin-1, acting locally, regulates arterial distensibility, assessed by measuring pulse-wave velocity in vivo. BACKGROUND: Arterial stiffness is a key determinant of cardiovascular risk. Several lines of evidence support a role for the endothelium in regulating arterial stiffness by release of vasoactive mediators. However, the role of endothelin-1 (ET-1) in the regulation of arterial stiffness has not been investigated. METHODS: All studies were conducted in anesthetized sheep. Pulse wave velocity (PWV) was calculated using the foot-to-foot methodology from two pressure waveforms simultaneously recorded with a high-fidelity, dual pressure-sensing catheter placed in the common iliac artery. RESULTS: Intra-arterial infusion of ET-1 significantly increased iliac PWV by 12 ± 5% (mean ± STD; p < 0.001), whereas infusion of the endothelin-A (ETA) receptor antagonist BQ-123 significantly reduced PWV by 12 ± 4% (p < 0.001). After BQ-123 infusion, exogenously infused ET-1 did not significantly change PWV compared with infusion of saline (change of -0.08 ± 0.11% vs. -0.01 ± 0.07%; p = 0.53). Importantly, infusion of BQ-123 or ET-1 distal to the common iliac artery did not affect PWV. CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate, for the first time, that endogenous ET-1 production directly regulates large artery PWV in vivo. In addition, exogenous ET-1 increases PWV, and this can be blunted by ETA receptor blockade. These observations explain, in part, why conditions that exhibit up-regulation of ET-1 are also associated with arterial stiffening. Therefore, drugs that block ETA receptors may be effective in reducing large artery stiffness in humans, and thus cardiovascular risk.