Despite the well-recognized vasoconstrictor and fluid-retaining actions of vasopressin, prolonged administration of arginine vasopressin (AVP) to normal animals or humans fails to produce sustained hypertension. The present study was performed to elucidate the role of the V1 receptor in determining the ability of AVP to produce sustained hypertension. Conscious Sprague-Dawley rats with implanted catheters were infused with the selective V1 agonist, [Phe2,Ile3,Orn8]vasopressin (2 ng.kg-1.min-1), for 14 days in amounts that were acutely nonpressor. Blood pressure (MAP), heart rate (HR), body weight, and water intake (WI) were determined daily. Plasma AVP, plasma catecholamines norepinephrine and epinephrine, plasma osmolality, and electrolyte concentration were determined before and on days 1 and 7 of infusion. MAP increased significantly by 10.4 +/- 4.5 mmHg on day 1 and rose to 22 +/- 5 mmHg above control by day 14 (transient decrease on days 6-9) and then fell to control levels after the infusion was stopped. HR did not change significantly. Plasma AVP immunoreactivity increased from 2.5 +/- 0.3 to 10.9 +/- 2.1 pg/ml, whereas norepinephrine tended to fall only on day 1, with epinephrine only slightly elevated on day 7. No evidence of fluid retention was found, and rats lost sodium only on the first day of V1 agonist infusion. Body weight increased throughout the study but was unrelated to the changes of MAP. We conclude that chronic stimulation of V1 receptors results in sustained hypertension in rats.