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Wistar rats were deeply anesthetized and perfused by Hanks' solution bubbled with either 95% air and 5% CO2 (normoxic group) or 95% N2 and 5% CO2 (hypoxic group) from the thoracic aorta for 30 minutes. The isolated abdominal aortas were used for electron microscopy, immunocytochemistry of endothelin-1 (ET-1) and endothelin-converting enzyme-1 (ECE-1), and in situ hybridization of preproendothelin-1 mRNA. A remarkable increase in the number of Weibel-Palade bodies, storage sites of ET-1 and ECE-1, occurred in the hypoxic group when compared with the normoxic group. Immunoreactivities for ET-1 and ECE-1, and signals for preproendothelin-1 mRNA were seen along the endothelia of both groups, but the intensities were significantly elevated in the hypoxic group. The increase in the number of ECE-1 immunoreactive gold particles was noticed in Weibel-Palade bodies in the hypoxic group. These findings indicate the enhancement of preproendothelin-1 synthesis in the rat aortic endothelial cells and the acceleration of ET-1 processing in Weibel-Palade bodies of such cells in an acute hypoxic condition.