1. The relationships between the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, sodium and potassium balance and systolic blood pressure were studied during development of moderate (160–180 mmHg; clip i.d. 0.25 mm) and severe (200–230 mmHg; clip i.d. 0.20 mm) renal hypertension in rats with an undisturbed contralateral kidney.
2. In severely hypertensive rats renin activity in the peripheral plasma increased from day 9, by which time the systolic blood pressure was elevated to 160–180 mmHg. The rate of total corticosteroid and aldosterone production in vitro increased from day 14 and plasma renin substrate concentration increased from day 24. In moderately hypertensive rats, none of these changes occurred.
3. During the first 10 days after the application of 0.25 and 0.20 mm clips, sodium and potassium retention/g gain in body weight were higher than in sham-operated controls. During the next 10 days, the positive balance stabilized in animals with a 0.25 mm clip whereas, in animals with a 0.20 mm clip, sodium and potassium balance returned to the level of the sham-operated controls through increased renal losses. Despite these changes the systolic pressure rose further in animals with a 0.20 mm clip.
4. The initial sodium retention could be a factor in the early rise of blood pressure and could account for the delay in the rise of peripheral plasma renin activity. The subsequent loss of the retained sodium and potassium during the development of severe hypertension could have facilitated the rise in peripheral plasma renin activity, but did not initiate this rise.