Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is synthesized and released by vascular smooth-muscle cells (VSMCs). Glucocorticoids induce the release of ET-1 from VSMCs into the medium. We investigated whether glucocorticoids modulate ET-1 action by an autocrine production of ET-1 in A7r5 VSMCs. Dexamethasone (100 nM) stimulated the release of ET-1 into the medium. Treatment with 100 nM dexamethasone for 24 h reduced the peak increase of intracellular free Ca2+ induced by ET-1 (100 nM) by 50%, an effect that was dose-dependently inhibited by the specific ETA-receptor antagonist FR139317. Scatchard plots of [125I]-ET-1 binding revealed that dexamethasone reduced the number of maximal ET-1 binding sites without altering their binding affinity. FR139317 reversed the decrease in ET-1 binding capacity induced by dexamethasone. Northern blot analysis revealed that dexamethasone increased the level of prepro-ET-1 messenger RNA (mRNA) and decreased the level of ETA-receptor mRNA. FR139317 prevented the decrease in the level of ETA-receptor mRNA induced by dexamethasone. Results indicate that dexamethasone downregulates ETA receptors in A7r5 VSMCs at the mRNA level, in part by the autocrine production of ET-1.