To determine the degree to which increased sympathetic activity contributes to the increase in renin secretion produced by a low sodium diet, the beta-adrenergic blocking drug propranolol or saline vehicle was injected through indwelling jugular cannulas in rats fed a normal diet and rats fed a low sodium diet for 9 days. Plasma renin activity (PRA) and plasma renin concentration (PRC) were elevated by the low sodium diet, and these values were reduced 42-45% by propranolol, although they were still higher than in the normal diet controls. Plasma corticosterone was moderately elevated in cannulated rats on regular diet, compared to decapitated controls, but corticosterone did not differ between cannulated and decapitated rats on low salt diet; propranolol reduced plasma corticosterone. However, PRA and PRC were comparable in cannulated rats and decapitated controls on both the normal and the low sodium diets, and propranolol did not produce a significant reduction in PRA and PRC in rats fed the normal diet. This indicates that the effects of propranolol on PRA and PRC in the low sodium rats were not simply due to reduction of a stress-induced increase in renin secretion. The results indicate that increased sympathetic activity makes a substantial contribution to the increase in renin secretion produced by 9 days of dietary sodium restriction.