A progressive decline in glomerular function occurs in diabetic nephropathy. The predictive effects of progression promoters were examined in 182 non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients from a baseline serum creatinine concentration of 133 mumol/l. During a total of 605 person-years follow-up, 107 patients developed end-stage renal failure requiring dialysis. The rate of decline of renal function was highly variable. Urinary protein excretion was the strongest predictor correlated to the rate of decline, followed by diastolic and systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol and platelet count, while the protective effects were seen in serum albumin and haematocrit. Adjustment for urinary protein excretion revealed that diastolic blood pressure, familial predisposition to hypertension, serum albumin, and smoking were independent significant predictors. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-I) significantly retarded the development of end-stage renal failure compared to antihypertensives other than ACE-I (mostly nifedipine), and the effect was evident particularly in patients with proteinuria below the median (2.5 g/24 h) (presumably those who responded to ACE-I). A complex effect of proteinuria in association with blood pressure elevation, familial predisposition to hypertension, hypoalbuminaemia, and smoking may play an important role in the progression of nephropathy.