The role of the renin-angiotensin system in the regulation of the blood pressure of dexamethasone-treated rats (Dex) was evaluated using saralasin, an angiotensin II antagonist, and SQ 14225 (SQ) (d-3-mercapto-2-methylpropranoyl-1-proline), an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor. During a 7-day period blood pressure rose 65 +/- 10 mmHg (P less than 0.001) in Dex with no significant changes in plasma renin activity. Concurrent administration of dexamethasone and SQ attenuated the elevation of blood pressure (P less than 0.05). In the conscious, freely moving state, intravenous injection of SQ (10, 30, 100 micrograms/kg) reduced blood pressure of DEX in a dose-dependent manner (P less than 0.05). Also, intravenous injection of saralasin (10 micrograms.kg-1 . min-1) reduced blood pressure significantly (P less than 0.01). Bilateral nephrectomy abolished the effects of saralasin and SQ on blood pressure in Dex. These results indicate that the elevation of blood pressure in DEX depends partially on the renin-angiotensin system.