1. Active plasma renin concentration but not total renin concentration is reduced in women with pregnancy-induced hypertension compared with normotensive pregnant women. This study was conducted to determine whether women with pregnancy-induced hypertension are able to stimulate release of active renin.

2. Active plasma renin concentration was measured as the generation of angiotensin I at physiological pH in the presence of excess renin substrate, and total renin concentration was determined in the same way after trypsin activation. Inactive plasma renin concentration was calculated as the difference between total renin and active plasma renin concentrations.

3. Resting active plasma renin concentration was significantly greater in third-trimester primigravidae compared with normotensive non-pregnant women and active plasma renin and total renin concentrations rose significantly without a fall in inactive plasma renin concentration in both groups after 2 h ambulation, suggesting increased release of active plasma renin and not conversion of circulating inactive to active renin. These responses were blunted in women taking oral contraceptives.

4. Although the active plasma renin concentration was significantly reduced in third-trimester primigravidae with pregnancy-induced hypertension, total renin concentration was not significantly different compared with normotensive women of similar gestation and in both groups 30 min 60° head-up tilt increased active but not inactive plasma renin concentration.

5. These studies show that in normal pregnancy active plasma renin concentration can be stimulated to a similar extent as in non-pregnant women, despite a higher resting level. This appears to be due to increased secretion of active plasma renin rather than conversion of circulating inactive to active renin. Women with pregnancy-induced hypertension are also still able to stimulate secretion of active renin despite resting concentrations similar to those of non-pregnant women. These data suggest that in pregnancy-induced hypertension basal secretion of active renin is prematurely reset to that in the non-pregnant state but that secretion of active renin responds normally to posture.

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