This study was undertaken to investigate further the possible role of vasopressin in the sexual dimorphism of deoxycorticosterone (DOC)-salt hypertension. The study was carried out 3 weeks after initiating treatment with DOC and salt in uninephrectomized male and female rats. Mean arterial pressure (MAP) was lower in female than in male DOC-salt hypertensive rats (177 +/- 7 versus 198 +/- 4 mmHg; P less than 0.01). Mean arterial pressure did not differ between male and female normotensive control rats. Increases in MAP in response to graded i.v. infusions of vasopressin were markedly attenuated in female normotensive and hypertensive rats, but there was no sex difference in pressor responses to i.v. phenylephrine. Baroreflex sensitivity was reduced in both male and female DOC-salt rats, but to a greater extent in males (P less than 0.01). Diminished pressor responsiveness to vasopressin and a smaller impairment of baroreflex sensitivity may contribute to the reduced development of DOC-salt hypertension in female rats.