Our objective was to investigate the endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) immuno-reactivity and the ultrastructure of endothelial cells of a human umbilical artery in both normal and preeclamptic pregnancies. The umbilical cords from normal and preeclamptic pregnancies were collected immediately after vaginal and abdominal deliveries. Umbilical arteries were isolated and fixed in 10% neutral formaline solution, embedded in paraffin, and then stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) for the histologic investigation, and eNOS activation were examined in samples by streptavidine-biotine immunohistochemical methods. The arterial sections were also fixed in phosphate-buffered 2.5% glutaraldehyde solution (pH 7.2) for 3 h and post-fixed with 1% osmium tetroxide at 4 C for 2 h for the investigation of the ultrastructural examination. In the umbilical artery of preeclamptic pregnancies, endothelial cells were oval, triangular, or polygonal, and were disorganized. Some endothelial cells were separated by enlarged intercellular spaces. A dilated endoplasmic reticulum, swollen mitochondria, and vanished mitochondrial cristae were observed. The nuclei of some endothelial cells displayed deep invaginations and irregular outlines. Most endothelial cells had a high number of cytoplasmic vacuoles. In preeclampsia, eNOS immunoreactivity increased considerably in endothelial cells when compared to normal pregnancies. We believe that preeclampsia plays an important role in the pathogenesis of endothelial cell dysfunction and activation in the umbilical artery. However, the disturbance mechanism of endothelial cells is not known, and further studies are necessary to clarify the exact mechanism.