The effects of dietary sodium intake on the gene expression of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) were investigated in rat central and peripheral tissues in a single set of experiment. Northern and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) techniques were used to detect mRNA expression in rats fed a low- or a high-sodium diet (5 or 500 mmol Na+/kg diet) for 20 days. Plasma and renal renin levels were elevated in rats maintained on the low-sodium diet. Sodium deprivation enhanced the expression of angiotensinogen, renin, AT1A and AT1B receptor subtypes in the hypothalamus, but suppressed them in the brainstem. Kidney and adrenal levels of those mRNAs were also enhanced in the sodium-restricted rats. Both AT1A and AT1B mRNAs changed in a similar magnitude in each tissue examined upon dietary sodium intake. AT1A was the predominant receptor subtype of AT1 in all the tissues examined in the present study except the adrenal gland. The present study demonstrated that dietary sodium modulated the gene expression of the RAS components in the central and peripheral tissues. It also showed that the RAS components in the brainstem and hypothalamus were differentially expressed upon sodium deprivation. This suggests different roles of the RAS in these tissues in maintaining body fluid homeostasis in response to different sodium intakes.