To define the role of local synthesis of angiotensinogen in tissue angiotensin production, we have quantitated angiotensinogen messenger RNA (mRNA) levels in 17 different tissues of four groups of rats: control rats, nephrectomized rats, rats given dexamethasone, ethynylestradiol, and triiodothyronine, and nephrectomized rats given dexamethasone, ethynylestradiol, and triiodothyronine. Angiotensinogen mRNA was identified in 12 tissues: liver, kidney, brain, spinal cord, aorta, mesentery, atria, lung, adrenal, large intestine, stomach, and spleen. Angiotensinogen mRNA was not identified in pituitary, ventricle, testis, small intestine, or pancreas. When expressed per gram tissue wet weight, angiotensinogen mRNA levels of extrahepatic tissues were less than 4% of hepatic levels. However, when expressed per milligram total RNA, angiotensinogen mRNA levels of brain, spinal cord, aorta, and mesentery were 26-42% of hepatic levels. Regulation of angiotensinogen mRNA levels was tissue specific. This demonstration of a widespread tissue distribution of angiotensinogen mRNA may indicate a similarly widespread distribution of local angiotensin systems that are independent of the circulating renin-angiotensin system.