The role of hypertension in the pathogenesis of renal damage is a subject of both historical interest and current investigation. Because of the difficulty associated with studying the pathophysiologic role of glomerular injury in systemic hypertension, experimental models have provided much of the data in this field. The mechanisms leading to glomerular injury are complex and not fully elucidated. Mesangial and endothelial cell injury are thought to be important pathophysiologic mechanisms in the renal injury associated with hypertension. One hypothesis suggests that glomerular hypertension (ie, a hemodynamic event) is the primary pathogenetic mechanism, but another supports the notion that glomerular hypertrophy (ie, abnormal growth-related events) contributes to injury. The intrarenal renin-angiotensin system may play an important pathogenetic role in end-stage renal disease. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition has been shown to arrest the progression of renal injury in animal models. Although the clinical database is incomplete, the findings of anecdotal reports and short-term studies suggest that ACE inhibition may preserve renal function in patients with scleroderma renal crisis, reduce proteinuria in patients with diabetic nephropathy, and normalize renal hemodynamics in patients with a variety of renal diseases. The beneficial effects of ACE inhibition may be due to both hemodynamic (eg, reduction in glomerular capillary and intraglomerular pressures) and nonhemodynamic (eg, potassium-sparing and reduction in mesangial proliferation) mechanisms. The precise role of ACE inhibitors in the prevention of renal damage awaits the results of ongoing long-term, double-blind clinical studies. Nevertheless, ACE inhibition may be an appropriate therapeutic alternative in the hypertensive patient whose renal injury is progressing despite aggressive antihypertensive therapy.