The aortic expression of endothelin-1 (ET-1) was examined in three species of rat using a novel en face immunohistochemical technique. A genetically hypertensive strain was compared to two normotensive strains, one of which is known to develop spontaneous lesions within the abdominal aorta. ET-1-positive staining was increased about the major aortic branch ostia and over the dorsal abdominal aortic wall in all three species indicating a flow-related expression pattern. Mitotic and hyperchromatic endothelial cells stained strongly for ET-1 as did occasional multi-nucleated endothelial cells. The aortic-lesion-prone normotensive strain developed transverse tears of the internal elastic lamina with a corresponding endothelial cell response. Endothelium at the edge of these lesions was strongly stained for ET-1 and appeared to be associated with increased leucocyte adhesion as did other strongly ET-1-stained areas in all three species. This study indicates that increased ET-1 expression is anatomically localised within the rat aorta, possibly by haemodynamic stress. This may have implications for maintaining endothelial cell confluence, aortic smooth muscle cell reparative processes and possibly eventual pathophysiological conditions such as atherosclerosis.