Captopril, an inhibitor of angiotensin converting enzyme, is widely used clinically to manage hypertension and congestive heart failure. Here captopril is shown to be an inhibitor of angiogenesis able to block neovascularization induced in the rat cornea. Captopril acted directly and specifically on capillary endothelial cells, inhibiting their chemotaxis with a biphasic dose-response curve showing an initial decrease at clinically achievable doses under 10 microM and a further slow decline in the millimolar range. Captopril inhibition of endothelial cell migration was not mediated by angiotensin converting enzyme inhibition, but was suppressed by zinc. Direct inhibition by captopril of zinc-dependent endothelial cell-derived 72-and 92-kD metalloproteinases known to be essential for angiogenesis was also seen. When used systemically on rats captopril inhibited corneal neovascularization and showed the antitumor activity expected of an inhibitor of angiogenesis, decreasing the number of mitoses present in carcinogen-induced foci of preneoplastic liver cells and slowing the growth rate of an experimental fibrosarcoma whose cells were resistant to captopril in vitro. These data define this widely used drug as a new inhibitor of neovascularization and raise the possibility that patients on long term captopril therapy may derive unexpected benefits from its antiangiogenic activities.