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Spontaneously hypertensive stroke-prone rats (SHR-SP) suffer spontaneous stroke in part as a result of abnormal cerebrovascular development. Reduction of regional cerebral blood flow in this model has already been demonstrated. This model has three distinct stages of hypertension: pre-hypertensive, typical hypertensive and malignant hypertensive. We investigated the level of endothelin-1 and its receptor expression in the frontal cortex of SHR-SP at the malignant hypertensive stage (35-40 weeks of age), during which time the rats suffer strokes. The cerebral endothelin-1 level, as determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, was highly increased at this severely hypertensive stage compared to their genetic control, normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats. This upregulation was associated with an increased expression of endothelin-A receptor, however, another endothelin-1 receptor, endothelin-B, was downregulated. The regional cerebral blood flow in the frontal cortex was reduced by 60% in 40-week-old malignantly SHR-SP as compared to age-matched Wistar-Kyoto rats. Thus, cerebral endothelin-1 expression increased in malignant hypertension in SHR-SP. The enhanced endothelin-1 may activate the endothelin-A receptor, which would, in turn, result in reduced cerebral blood flow. Downregulation of the endothelin-B receptor may cause suppression of endothelium-derived relaxing factors in the brain of SHR-SP and be an underlying factor in their stroke susceptibility.