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There are several factors in the manifestation of high blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) which implicate a central role for brain angiotensin II (Ang II). We have measured levels of angiotensin in the brain of SHR and rats of the Wistar- Kyoto strain (WKY). The experiments were carried out in 2-, 4-, 14- and 20-week-old rats. Areas of brain from rats were homogenized and purified with SepPak C-18 cartridges. The levels were measured by radio-immunoassay whose detection limit was 1.95 pg/tube. Significant differences were found between the different age groups and between SHR and controls. In the hypothalamus, there was a consistent elevation of brain Ang II in SHR as compared to WKY in all age groups. Cerebellum also had higher levels in SHR, especially in rats at 2 and 4 weeks of age. Brainstem levels were significantly higher in SHR only in the 14-week-old age group. Plasma levels during these time periods did not differ significantly between the strains. The results demonstrate changes in brain Ang II with development. At an early age, there are high levels of Ang II in the hypothalamus and cerebellum which do not correlate with hypertension but may be important for the development of hypertension. The higher levels of brain Ang II in SHR support the hypothesis that hypertension in SHR is related to brain Ang II activity.