Endothelins (ETs), a family of vasoconstrictor peptides, are up-regulated in several pathological conditions in the brain, and induce astrocytic proliferation. We previously observed that ET-1 increased the expression of cyclin D1 protein. Thus, we confirmed the intracellular up-regulation of cyclin D1 by ET-1 in rat cultured astrocytes. Real-time PCR analysis indicated that ET-1 (100 nM) and Ala1,3,11,15-ET-1 (100 nM), a selective agonist of the ETB receptor, induced a time-dependent and transient increase in cyclin D1 mRNA. The effect of ET-1 was diminished by an ETB antagonist (1 μM BQ788) or inhibitors of Sp1 (500 nM mithramycin), ERK (50 μM PD98059), p38 (20 μM SB203580) and JNK (1 μM SP600125), but not inhibitors of NF-κB (10 μM SN50 and 100 μM pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate). The binding assay for Sp1 indicated that ET-1 increased the binding activity of Sp1 to consensus sequences, and two oligonucleotides of the cyclin D1 promoter including the Sp1-binding sites diminished the effect of ET-1. Western blot analysis showed that ET-1 induced time-dependent and transient phosphorylation of Sp1 on Thr453 and Thr739 via the ETB receptor. ET-1-induced phosphorylation of Sp1 was attenuated by PD98059 and SP600125. Additionally, ET-1 increased the incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) in cultured astrocytes and the number of BrdU-positive cells decreased in the presence of PD98059, SP600125 and mithramycin. These results suggest that ET-1 increases the expression of cyclin D1 via activation of Sp1 and induces astrocytic proliferation.