Diabetic nephropathy is the main cause of increased mortality and morbidity in IDDM patients. The effect of antihypertensive treatment on the progression of the nephropathy is highly variable. The aim of this study was to evaluate putative predictors of the progression in diabetic nephropathy during long-term antihypertensive treatment. Eighteen hypertensive IDDM patients with diabetic nephropathy, who had not been treated previously, were followed during 3 years of treatment with captopril and frusemide or bendrofluazide. Glomerular filtration rate, arterial blood pressure, albuminuria and adjusted albuminuria were used as putative predictors of rate of decline in glomerular filtration. Fall rate in glomerular filtration rate was 4.6 (4.0) ml.min-1.year-1 (mean (SD)) during treatment. Relative change in albuminuria (ratio of first year of treatment/baseline) and albuminuria during first year of treatment were significantly correlated to fall rate in glomerular filtration rate during 3 years of treatment (r = 0.73, p < 0.001) and (r = 0.60, p < 0.01), respectively. Arterial blood pressure and glomerular filtration rate measured at baseline, during first year of treatment or relative changes in these variables did not correlate with fall rate in glomerular filtration rate during 3 years of treatment. Haemoglobin A1c, serum-cholesterol, protein intake and sodium excretion remained unchanged during treatment, and were not correlated with loss of kidney function. Reduction in albuminuria during captopril treatment predicts an attenuated rate of decline in glomerular filtration rate in early diabetic nephropathy (glomerular filtration rate > 70 ml.min-1.1.73 m-2). The finding suggests a clinical application in monitoring the efficacy of antihypertensive treatment in early diabetic nephropathy.