Endothelin receptors with endothelin-A (ETa) specificity were present in neonatal rat ventricle. However, in both receptor-binding studies and studies of inositol phosphate accumulation, these receptors had lower affinity for endothelin-1 than ETa receptors on isolated neonatal cardiomyocytes or adult left atria. Receptors in the three myocardial preparations were cross-linked to 125I-endothelin-1 and their molecular masses measured using SDS/PAGE. Receptors on left atria and neonatal cardiomyocytes had the expected molecular mass of 48 kDa, whereas the receptors in neonatal ventricle were smaller (38 kDa). Despite this, neonatal ventricles contained ETa receptor mRNA which was not different in size from that in the isolated cells (4.5 kb). Thus the 38 kDa ETa receptor present in neonatal ventricle appears to be transcribed from full-length ETa receptor mRNA and is possibly formed by processing of the 48 kDa receptor.