Since normal human pregnancy is characterized by normotension in the face of an increased renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), we evaluated the temporal pattern of urinary excretion of a novel vasodilator within this system, angiotensin-(1-7) (Ang-[1-7]), during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and lactation. The urinary profiles of Ang I, Ang II, human chorionic gonadotropin, 17beta-estradiol, and progesterone were also determined. During the menstrual cycle, urinary Ang-(1-7) and Ang II remained stable (mean cycle value: 94.6 +/- 11.3 and 11.4 +/- 1.1 pmol/g of creatinine, respectively) in nine females. In 10 normal pregnant women, urinary Ang-(1-7) and Ang II increased throughout gestation, averaging 1499.8 +/- 310 and 224.4 +/- 58 pmol/g of creatinine, respectively (p < 0.05) at wk 35 and falling during lactation to 394.0 +/- 95 and 65.7 +/- 20 pmol/ g of creatinine (p < 0.05), respectively. The Ang-(1-7)/Ang II ratio was unchanged in the different reproductive periods. During the menstrual cycle, Ang II and Ang-(1-7) correlated with 17beta-estradiol and progesterone using multivariate analysis (r = 0.31, p < 0.001) and r = 0.28, p < 0.02, respectively). During gestation, 17beta-estradiol and progesterone correlated with urinary Ang-(1-7) (r = 0.48, p < 0.001 and r = 0.47, p < 0.001, respectively) and Ang II (r = 0.24, p < 0.03 and r = 0.25, p < 0.03, respectively); by multiple regression, only Ang-(1-7) correlated with both steroids (r = 0.49,p < 0.001). The progressive rise of Ang-(1-7) throughout gestation, probably modulated by estrogen and progesterone, suggests a physiologic counterregulation within the RAAS.