The purpose of the present study was to determine the influence of pertussis toxin (PTX) on the pulmonary and systemic vasodilator responses to endothelin (ET) isopeptides in the intact cat under conditions of constant pulmonary blood flow and left atrial pressure. When pulmonary vasomotor tone was actively increased by an intralobar arterial infusion of U-46619, intralobar arterial bolus injections of ET-1, ET-2, and ET-3 decreased lobar arterial pressure and systemic vascular resistance in a dose-related manner. The vasodilator responses to ET-1 and ET-2 in the cat lung were abolished by PTX pretreatment, whereas PTX pretreatment did not alter the pulmonary vasodilator response to ET-3 and cromakalim, a specific ATP-sensitive potassium (K-ATP) channel activator, and the systemic vasodilator responses to all ET isopeptides studied. Glipizide, an inhibitor of K-ATP channels, inhibited the pulmonary vasodilator responses to ET-1, ET-2, and ET-3, whereas the systemic vasodilator responses to these isopeptides were not changed. The present data are the first to provide a functional correlate in vivo suggesting the existence of different signal transduction mechanisms for two pulmonary vascular ET receptor subtypes, ET(A)-like that is PTX sensitive and has greater sensitivity to ET-1 and ET-2 (than to ET-3) and ET(c)-like that is PTX insensitive and has sensitivity to ET-3 (than to ET-1 and ET-2). However, both ET-receptor subtypes promote vasodilation in the adult pulmonary vascular bed by activating K-ATP channels. The present data also suggest that the intracellular signaling for the mechanisms mediating the vasodilator responses to ET-1 and ET-2 in the systemic and pulmonary vascular beds differ.