OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to measure the circulatory levels of endothelin-1 in the serum of pregnant women with hypertension. STUDY DESIGN: Endothelin-1 levels were measured by means of radioimmunoassay in the serum of 26 pregnant women with hypertension (14 with pregnancy-induced preeclamptic toxemia, 12 with chronic hypertension) and in the serum of 17 control pregnant women and 18 control nonpregnant women. The mean levels in the different groups were subject to statistical analysis with the analysis of variance. RESULTS: The mean level among the women with preeclampsia (29.9 ± 13.2 fmol/ml) was significantly higher than those of the chronically hypertensive women (16.1 ± 7.3 fmol/ml, p = 0.002) and of the control pregnant women (19.7 ± 9.2 fmol/ml, p = 0.011). The mean level of the control nonpregnant women (26.9 ± 9.3) was significantly higher than that of the control pregnant women (p = 0.029). Among the patients with preeclampsia there was no correlation between endothelin-1 levels and the mean arterial blood pressure. Six to 10 weeks after delivery the mean levels of 15 studied patients (7 with preeclampsia, 8 with chronic hypertension) were similar to the levels of the nonpregnant control women. CONCLUSION: We conclude that increased endothelin-1 production may play a role in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia.