1. To study the anti-hypertensive effects of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), eight patients with mild to moderate essential hypertension, on no treatment, were infused with α-human ANP (102–126) (37 pmol min−1 kg−1) or placebo for 60 min and observed for a further 4 h on the fifth day of low and high sodium diets in a randomized, cross-over study.

2. Plasma ANP levels increased over 30-fold into the high pathophysiological range during ANP infusion, but had returned to control values by 60 min after the end of infusion. With ANP infusion, there was a large decrease in supine blood pressure which was similar on both the low and high sodium intakes and was maximal 20–40 min after completion of the infusion. These reductions in blood pressure were sustained for a further 4 h after the end of ANP infusion and for 3 h after plasma ANP levels had returned to control values.

3. Maximal urinary sodium excretion increased 10-fold on the low sodium diet (negative sodium balance 20 mmol) and threefold on the high sodium diet (negative sodium balance 30 mmol) during ANP infusion; however, during the 4 h after infusion, urinary sodium excretion was below placebo values. During ANP infusion, packed cell volume increased significantly on both diets but returned to control values by 4 h after the end of infusion.

4. There were no significant changes in plasma renin activity compared with placebo during or after ANP infusion. However, plasma aldosterone was significantly greater than placebo values after the end of ANP infusion on both low and high sodium diets.

5. The sustained fall in blood pressure after ANP infusion appears to be unexplained by changes in sodium balance, packed cell volume and plasma ANP levels. These findings suggest that ANP may have a prolonged action on a pressor mechanism which remains to be defined.

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