An elevated plasma level of endothelin-1 was reported in several cardiovascular conditions including unstable angina pectoris and myocardial infarction. The present study was designed to evaluate the time course of the endothelin-1 release in unstable angina pectoris and to assess its relationship to the development of myocardial infarction and coronary vessel occlusion. The cohort studied included 32 patients with the clinical diagnosis of unstable angina pectoris who had been admitted to the coronary care unit and subsequently underwent coronary angiography (group A). Fourteen patients with chronic stable angina pectoris referred to routine diagnostic coronary angiography served as the control group (group B). A significant difference in the endothelin-1 plasma level was found between both groups, the values being 10.2 ± 5.3 and 6.0 ± 3.1 pg/ml (p < 0.01), respectively. There were, however, no significant differences between the following subdivisions of group A: patients with and without subsequent myocardial infarction; those with angiographically documented occlusion of at least one major branch of the coronary artery and no occlusion; and finally, those with persisting symptoms of angina pectoris and with favorable response to treatment. Neither was there any difference found among the subgroups differing in the time interval between the onset of chest pain and blood sampling. The time course of endothelin plasma concentrations showed elevated values lasting for more than 96 h after the index episode of prolonged chest pain. No correlation with the subsequent clinical course could be inferred. Thus, plasma endothelin level was elevated in patients with unstable angina pectoris and myocardial infarction and the increase persisted for several days after the onset of symptoms.