To investigate the metabolic and renal effects of the nonsulfhydryl, tissue-active ACE inhibitor quinapril in diabetes and in hypertension, we studied 30 essential hypertensives and 24 non-insulin-dependent (type II) diabetic (NIDDM) subjects with hypertension. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures, plasma glucose, and insulin responses to an oral glucose load (75 g), lipid profile, and urinary albumin excretion were evaluated before and after 8 weeks' administration of quinapril (10 to 40 mg/day). Quinapril produced a significant and comparable reduction of arterial blood pressure in both groups. Mean arterial pressure decreased from 114.8 +/- 0.9 to 94.2 +/- 1.1 (-17.9 +/- 1.5%) in the essential hypertensive group and from 118.4 +/- 1.6 to 96.2 +/- 1.4 (-18.4 +/- 1.6%) in the diabetic hypertensive group. In both essential hypertensives and diabetic-hypertensive subjects with microalbuminuria, quinapril significantly and comparably reduced the urinary albumin excretion rate (UAE); UAE decreased from 32.5 +/- 5.5 micrograms/min to 14.7 +/- 3.7 micrograms/min (P < .05 v baseline) in the diabetic-hypertensive group and from 27.5 +/- 3.0 micrograms/min to 11.6 +/- 2.7 micrograms/min (P < .05 v baseline) in the essential hypertensives. Altogether, a direct correlation was found between the initial level of UAE and the UAE reduction after quinapril (delta UAE) (r = 0.706, p < .05). Insulin and glucose responses to an oral glucose tolerance test and the lipid profiles were not modified by quinapril treatment. The results confirm that quinapril is an effective antihypertensive agent that additionally reduces microalbuminuria in both hypertensive diabetics and in patients with essential hypertension, without altering insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles.