Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a potent vasoconstrictor peptide that is abundant in the brain and the peripheral sympathetic nervous system. In the present study we investigated possible changes in plasma immunoreactive (IR)-NPY concentrations and urinary IR-NPY excretion in patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) and the relationship to diabetic complications, such as nephropathy and neuropathy. IR-NPY in plasma and urine was measured by radioimmunoassay in 69 patients with NIDDM. Plasma IR-NPY concentrations in patients with advanced nephropathy (creatinine clearance <30 ml/min) (100.5 +/- 10.3 pmol/l, n=9, mean +/- SEM) were higher than in the control subjects (55.0 +/- 6.8 pmol/l, n=15) (P<0.02). Urinary excretion of IR-NPY and fractional excretion of NPY were also increased in the patients with advanced nephropathy. Sephadex G-50 column chromatography of the urine extracts obtained from healthy subjects, diabetic patients with renal failure and non-diabetic patients with renal failure showed an immunoreactive peak eluting in the NPY position. On the other hand, neither plasma nor urinary IR-NPY was high in patients with retinopathy, or in patients with peripheral neuropathy. The present study has, for the first time, shown high plasma IR-NPY concentrations and urinary IR-NPY excretion in NIDDM patients with advanced nephropathy.