The objectives of this study were to assess relations between ACE gene I/D polymorphism, essential hypertension, plasma renin activity and aldosterone in white (European descent) and black (Afro-Caribbean descent) peoples. Measurements were carried out on a total of 320 subjects (210 white: 116 men, 94 women; 110 black: 65 men, 45 women); all were on their usual sodium intake; none was on anti-hypertensive therapy and none had secondary hypertension. Genomic DNA was isolated from blood cells and ACE I/D genotype was established using polymerase chain reaction. Plasma hormones were measured by radioimmunoassay and blood pressure (BP) with an ultrasound sphygmomanometer. All subjects were grouped into normotensive, borderline and hypertensive according to WHO guidelines. The distribution of the I/D genotype in the white people was approximately 1:2:1; by contrast, in the Afro-Caribbean people there was a significantly higher frequency of the D allele (chi 2P = 0.04). Within the white people there was no significant association between ACE genotype and high BP; however, within the black people there was a positive association between the frequency of the D allele and increasing BP ( chi 2 for trend P = 0.03). In either group, there were no associations between ACE I/D genotype and plasma renin activity and aldosterone suggesting that ACE genotype does not contribute to the expression of the circulating renin-angiotensin system. This study highlights differences in ACE I/D polymorphism between white and black peoples and suggests the possibility of racial differences in the association between ACE genotype and BP.