Activation of the renin-angiotensin system by sodium deficiency is associated with reciprocal changes in the expression of angiotensin II receptors in adrenal glomerulosa and vascular smooth muscle cells. The effects of dietary sodium changes on the expression of brain angiotensin receptor subtype 1 (AT1) mRNAs were examined in rats maintained on normal, low, and high sodium intake for 3 weeks. Plasma aldosterone and renin activity were elevated in rats maintained on a low salt diet compared with normal rats and were reduced in rats maintained on a high salt diet. These results are consistent with previous findings on the effects of altered dietary sodium on the renin-angiotensin system. The expression of AT1A and AT1B receptor subtype mRNAs was determined by quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction during changes in sodium intake. The results revealed that sodium deprivation enhanced the expression of AT1B receptors in decorticated brains by 164% compared with high sodium intake. Conversely, high sodium diet increased the expression of AT1A receptors by 155% in the brain compared with low sodium intake. These data suggest that AT1A and AT1B receptors play reciprocal roles in central mechanisms for the control of fluid homeostasis. Further analysis of the molecular biology of angiotensin II receptor regulation in the brain may provide new insights into the interplay between the renin-angiotensin system and blood pressure regulation and also into the role of angiotensin II in the pathogenesis of essential hypertension.