Angiotensin-II, the most important biologically active product of the renin-angiotensin system, has been reported to play a role in neovascularization, and prorenin has been found in the vitreous of human eyes, particularly in those affected by proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a disease characterized by neovascularization. The prorenin level in these eyes was, relative to that of plasma albumin, higher than in eyes without neovascularization. These findings suggested that an intraocular renin-angiotensin system exists, which might be involved in the development of retinal neovascularization in diabetes mellitus. In this study angiotensin-I-generating activity was measured in bovine aqueous humor and vitreous and in extracts of bovine retina, pigment epithelium-choroid, and anterior uveal tract before and after subjecting these extracts to procedures known to convert prorenin to renin. The measurements were made by incubation at 37 C with plasma from nephrectomized rats at pH ranging from 5.0-8.5. True renin in the ocular samples could be separated from nonrenin acid protease by alpha-casein-Sepharose affinity column chromatography at pH 3.5; true renin did not bind to the column, whereas acid protease did. True renin was further identified by its relatively high pH optimum (6.5-7.0) for angiotensin-I generation, its complete inhibition with specific renin antiserum, and its high affinity for specific renin inhibitors. More than 75% of angiotensin-I-generating activity of the ocular samples consisted of true renin. Approximately 90% or more of total renin (renin plus prorenin) in aqueous humor, vitreous, and ocular tissue could not be explained by trapped plasma. Total renin in aqueous humor and renin in vitreous were near the detection limit of the assay of angiotensin-I-generating activity. In vitreous prorenin comprised 99% of the total renin, in retina 81%, and in pigment epithelium-choroid and anterior uveal tract less than 50%. Prorenin in ocular fluids showed a concentration gradient, posterior vitreous greater than anterior vitreous greater than aqueous humor, suggesting that the main source of extracellular prorenin was in the posterior eye. These data support the contention of local renin and/or prorenin synthesis in the eye and are in accordance with the observations in other tissues that extrarenal synthesis of renin is often associated with the release of mainly, or exclusively, prorenin into extracellular fluid.