In the aorta of prediabetic non-obese diabetic mice, a model of human type 1 diabetes, we investigated gene expression of the endothelin receptors and contractility to big endothelin-1 and endothelin-1 at the ages of 10 and 16 weeks. A subgroup of 10- week-old animals was treated with the endothelin ETA receptor antagonist LU461314 (30 mg/kg per day for 6 weeks). Blood glucose levels were normal in all animals. Real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed that vascular ETB receptor expression was higher in 10-week-old non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice compared with controls. In 16-week-old NOD mice, but not in control mice, ETB receptor mRNA was twofold lower (P < 0.05 vs 10-week-old NOD mice). In all groups ETA receptor expression was unaffected by age or treatment. Contractions to big endothelin-1 and endothelin-1 were lower in 10-week-old NOD mice compared with controls. Treatment with LU461314 increased ETB receptor expression in 16-week-old NOD mice, but had no effect on vascular contractility. These data indicate that dysregulation of ETB receptor expression and a decreased contractile response to big endothelin-1 and endothelin-1 are present in the prediabetic state of a model of human type 1 diabetes. These alterations occur independent of glucose levels. Furthermore, ETA receptor blockade is effective in increasing ETB receptor gene expression, suggesting a potential role for endothelin ETA antagonists in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.