1. Angiotensin (ANG) levels were measured in the cerebrospinal fluid of 15 patients with essential hypertension on a high sodium diet for 1 week and on a low sodium diet for a further week. ANGs were determined using a system of extraction by Sep-Pak cartridges followed by h.p.l.c. combined with radioimmunoassay.
2. Sodium depletion resulted in increases of ANG II in the cerebrospinal fluid from 1.16 ± 0.38 (sem) to 1.83 ± 0.43 fmol/ml (P < 0.01) and of ANG III from 0.65 ± 0.11 to 0.86 ± 0.15 fmol/ml (P < 0.01).
3. The ANG II level in the cerebrospinal fluid was found to be unchanged and recovery of added ANG II was approximately 90%, even after incubation for 3 h, on both diets. Thus, it is unlikely that ANG II is produced or degraded in the cerebrospinal fluid in vitro.
4. There was no significant correlation between the cerebrospinal fluid and the plasma ANG II concentration on the low sodium diet.
5. These results suggest that the cerebrospinal fluid ANG II level increases with sodium depletion, and that the effect of the level of ANG II on the activity of the angiotensin-forming system in the central nervous system may be assessed by determination of ANG II in the cerebrospinal fluid in patients with essential hypertension.