The present study has been performed to evaluate hemodynamic and tubular effects of various endothelin-3 (ET-3) concentrations on the isolated perfused rat kidney. Using this experimental system we observed a profound reduction of renal perfusate flow at all ET-3 concentrations tested (50, 250 and 500 pmol/l), suggesting that the vasoconstrictive potency of ET-3 in the kidney is comparable to that described for endothelin-1 (ET-1). The effects on glomerular filtration rate (GFR) differed depending on the ET-3 dose applied. While 250 pmol/l ET-3 increased GFR by 30%, 500 pmol/l ET-3 markedly reduced GFR. 50 pmol/l ET-3 did not alter GFR although renal vascular resistance significantly increased. Infusion of 1 µmol/l N-nitro- L-arginine, a specific and potent inhibitor of nitric oxide synthesis in endothelial cells, abolished the GFR elevation induced by 250 pmol/l ET-3. In parallel with the changes of GFR we observed an increase in sodium reabsorption at 250 pmol/l and a decrease of this parameter at 500 pmol/l ET-3. Moreover, an ET-3 concentration (500 pmol/l), which induced a dramatic fall in tubular sodium load, led to an increase of fractional sodium excretion and to a decrease of renal oxygen consumption. We conclude that ET-3 is a potent vasoconstrictor in the isolated perfused rat kidney. Furthermore, it modulates GFR in a differentiated mode, depending on the concentration used. The GFR increase at 250 pmol/l ET-3 seems to be mediated by endothelium-derived nitric oxide. In addition to its glomerular action, ET-3 might also affect tubular sodium transport.