1. During the past decade, extensive investigation of the endothelin (ET) system, primarily characterized by its potent vasoactive peptide element ET-1, has suggested a prominent role for this humoral agent and its isopeptides in cardiovascular and neural regulation. 2. Major elements of this system, including its peptide isoforms, converting enzymes involved in their formation and metabolism, as well as multiple receptor subtypes, have been localized within various components of the cardiovascular system and the central and peripheral nervous systems. 3. An understanding of the possible roles for the ET system in neural regulation and development has progressed over the past several years; most notable is the influence of ET on the central control of cardiovascular function and sympathetic tone. 4. The present concentrated review of ET and the central and peripheral nervous systems is presented to introduce the other papers within this symposium by briefly describing the presence and influence of components of this unique peptide system within pertinent physiological structures involved in cardiovascular, adrenal, sympathetic and enteric developmental function.