We studied the hypotensive effects of OPC-21268, an orally effective nonpeptide vasopressin V1 receptor antagonist, in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and strokeprone SHR (SHRSP). OPC-21268 was given intravenously to conscious, freely moving SHR and SHRSP. We used young and aged animals to examine the contribution of vasopressin to the development and maintenance of hypertension in both types of rats. In SHR, hypertension was fully established at 38 weeks of age, and intravenous injection of OPC-21268 produced slight hypotensive effects at either 38 or 70 weeks of age. In SHRSP, hypertension developed at 25 weeks of age, and blood pressure was sustained at a high level (approximately 250 mm Hg systolic blood pressure) thereafter. Intravenous administration of OPC-21268 did not cause hypotensive effects in young rats at 15 weeks, but at 25 weeks a significant decrease in blood pressure was observed. Furthermore, in the malignant state of SHRSP (35 to 41 weeks), OPC-21268 significantly decreased mean blood pressure by 32.4±7.9 mm Hg (mean±SEM) at 3 mg/kg IV, and the decrease was dose dependent (0.3 to 3.0 mg/kg). Plasma vasopressin concentrations were increased in a more malignant phase of SHRSP at 45 weeks of age, whereas at other ages of SHRSP or in SHR, plasma vasopressin levels were not increased. These results suggest that vasopressin plays an important role through V1 receptors in the maintenance of hypertension, at least in the malignant phase of SHRSP, and OPC-21268 may be therapeutically useful in the treatment of some types of hypertension.