The effects of a stressful environmental stimulus (air stress) on mean arterial pressure, renal sympathetic nerve activity, and renal function were examined in conscious Dahl salt-sensitive (DS) and Dahl salt-resistant rats (DR) on low (0.4%) and high (8%) NaCl diets. Air stress increased renal sympathetic nerve activity and decreased urine flow rate and urinary sodium excretion in conscious Dahl rats on a high sodium diet, but it had no effect in rats on a low sodium diet. Mean arterial pressure did not change during air stress in any group. Renal denervation prevented the antidiuretic and antinatriuretic responses to air stress in DS and DR on a high NaCl diet. An increased renal tubular reabsorption of sodium and water appeared to mediate the antinatriuretic and antidiuretic responses to air stress, since glomerular filtration rate and renal plasma flow were unchanged. Thus, environmental stress increases renal sympathetic nerve activity and decreases urinary sodium excretion more in Dahl rats on a high NaCl diet than on a low NaCl diet. On a high NaCl diet, these responses are greater in DS than in DR.