1,25(OH)2 Vitamin D3 (VD3) and retinoic acid (RA) function as ligands for nuclear receptors which regulate transcription. Though the cardiovascular system is not thought to represent a classical target for these ligands, it is clear that both cardiac myocytes and vascular smooth muscle cells respond to these agents with changes in growth characteristics and gene expression. In this study we demonstrate that each of these ligands suppresses many of the phenotypic correlates of endothelin-induced hypertrophy in a cultured neonatal rat cardiac ventriculocyte model. Each of these agents reduced endothelin-stimulated ANP secretion in a dose-dependent fashion and the two in combination proved to be more effective than either agent used alone (VD3: 49%; RA:52%; VD3 + RA:80% inhibition). RA, at concentrations known to activate the retinoid X receptor, and, to a lesser extent, VD3 effected a reduction in atrial natriuretic peptide, brain natriuretic peptide, and alpha-skeletal actin mRNA levels. Similar inhibition (VD3:30%; RA:33%; VD3 + RA:59% inhibition) was demonstrated when cells transfected with reporter constructs harboring the relevant promoter sequences were treated with VD3 and/or RA for 48 h. These effects were not accompanied by alterations in endothelin-induced c-fos, c-jun, or c-myc gene expression, suggesting either that the inhibitory locus responsible for the reduction in the mRNA levels lies distal to the activation of the immediate early gene response or that the two are not mechanistically coupled. Both VD3 and RA also reduced [3H]leucine incorporation (VD3:30%; RA:33%; VD3 + RA:45% inhibition) in endothelin-stimulated ventriculocytes and, once again, the combination of the two was more effective than either agent used in isolation. Finally, 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D3 abrogated the increase in cell size seen after endothelin treatment. These findings suggest that the liganded vitamin D and retinoid receptors are capable of modulating the hypertrophic process in vitro and that agents acting through these or similar signaling pathways may be of value in probing the molecular mechanisms underlying hypertrophy.