1. The acute effects of a single oral dose of captopril on blood pressure, pulse rate and circulating levels of angiotensin I (ANG I), angiotensin II (ANG II), renin, bradykinin and catecholamines were studied in three groups: eight normal subjects, six salt-depleted normal subjects and 16 patients with essential hypertension.
2. Captopril treatment did not cause any significant fall in supine blood pressure in salt-replete normal subjects or patients with untreated essential hypertension but was associated with a fall in mean blood pressure from 85 ± 2 to 75 ± 2 mmHg in salt-depleted normal subjects and from 131 ± 7 to 117 ± 5 mmHg in patients with essential hypertension treated with diuretics. There was no change in pulse rate in any group.
3. Hormonal responses to captopril were qualitatively similar in the three groups and consisted of significant falls in ANG II with corresponding increases in ANG I and plasma renin concentration. The changes in plasma renin concentration and ANG I were greater in salt-depleted normal subjects (mean values at 90 min were 1140% and 990% of basal levels respectively) than in salt-replete normal subjects (410%, 190%) and were blunted in patients with essential hypertension (140%, 120%). Blood bradykinin, noradrenaline and adrenaline concentrations did not change after captopril in any group.
4. The parallel fall in blood pressure and ANG II levels in salt-depleted normal subjects is consistent with maintenance of blood pressure by increased levels of ANG II in sodium depletion.
5. The failure of captopril to reduce acutely blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension despite suppression of plasma ANG II and without change in circulating bradykinin confirms that the renin-angiotensin system does not play a primary role in essential hypertension.