To determine the effect of the ACE gene insertion/deletion (I/D) polymorphism, angiotensinogen gene M235T polymorphism and the angiotensin 1 receptor gene A1166C polymorphism on the age of onset of end-stage renal failure (ESRF) in PKD1 adult autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), 189 individuals from 46 families with PKD1 were genotyped for each polymorphism. Of the 189 patients 52 (28%) reached ESRF at an average age of 48 +/- 1 year. In patients genotyped for the ACE gene insertion/deletion polymorphism the frequencies of the DD, ID and II genotypes were similar to those expected from Hardy Weinberg equilibrium. In patients with ESRF there was an excess of patients homozygous for the deletion allele (DD: 48% chi2 = 9.97 (1df) P = 0.002). Cumulative renal survival was significantly reduced among those with DD genotype compared to ID and II genotypes. The estimated mean renal survival (95% confidence intervals) were: DD, 52 years [48, 57]; II, 59 years [54, 63]; ID, 64 years [56, 72]; chi2 = 6.13 (1df) P = 0.013, DD versus ID/II. The mean age of renal failure was significantly younger in the DD genotype compared to ID and II genotypes (DD, ID, and II: 44 +/- 2, 49 +/- 2 and 54 +/- 3 years, respectively; P < 0.05 DD vs. ID, P < 0.05 DD vs. II). Ten of the eleven patients who reached ESRF before the age of 40 were homozygous for the deletion allele. The relative risk for ESRF below the age 40 for DD genotype was 17. For all ages there was an overall increased risk of 1.4 for ESRF with the DD genotype. There was no interaction between age of onset of ESRF and either the angiotensinogen M235T allele or angiotensin 1 receptor A1166C polymorphism. This study strongly suggests that PKD 1 patients homozygous for the deletion allele of the ACE gene are at increased risk of developing ESRF at a early age.