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The calcium ion (Ca2+) and potassium ion (K+) content in the ashed material from red blood cells was determined by flame photometry in 61 essential hypertensives, 11 renal hypertensives and in 47 normotensive controls, and intracellular K+ concentration was measured in the haemolysate. The ratio between Ca2+ and K+ content in ashed red blood cells (Ca2+i:K+i) was 2.07 ± 0.91 x 10-3 in normotensives, 4.91 ± 2.17 x 10-3 in essential hypertensives (P<0.01) and 3.48 ± 2.04 x 10-3 in renal hypertensives (P<0.05). Intracellular K+ concentration was 94.3 ± 3.1 mmol/l in normotensives, 94.7 ± 3.8 mmol/l in essential hypertensives and 93.8 ± 3.9 mmol/l in renal hypertensives. Therefore intracellular total Ca2+ concentration is increased in the red blood cells from essential hypertensives and, to a lesser extent, in the red blood cells from renal hypertensives. The use of Ca2+i:K+i ratios in red blood cells may thus be useful in assessing cellular Ca2+ content in hypertension.