Vascular renin-like activity was studied in the aortas and the cerebral microvessels of Sprague-Dawley rats and in the aortas of spontaneously hypertensive rats. Methods were employed to maximize detection of tissue renin and to simultaneously minimize contamination of that activity by either plasma renin or nonspecific proteases capable of angiotensin I generation. To this end, renin activity was measured near its pH optimum; plasma renin was eliminated by nephrectomy; and nonspecific proteases such as cathepsin D were either inhibited by proteolytic blockers or removed by chromatography over immobilized bovine hemoglobin. Aortic vascular renin-like activity was detected in rats not subjected to nephrectomy and could be inhibited by preincubation of samples with antimouse renin antibody shown to cross-react and inhibit rat plasma renin activity. Furthermore, vascular renin-like activity disappeared after nephrectomy in parallel with the disappearance of plasma renin activity. In the absence of contaminating enzymatic activities, no tissue renin-like activity could be demonstrated in either aortas or cerebral microvessels of Sprague-Dawley rats or in aortas of spontaneously hypertensive rats.