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To examine the role of the intrarenal renin-angiotensin system in the development of hypertension in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR), we measured angiotensin II contents and tubular 125l-angiotensin II binding sites in the kidney of SHR and age-matched Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY). In prehypertensive (4-week-old) SHR, not only the kidney angiotensin II content but also the angiotensin II receptor density in brush border membranes were significantly higher than in the WKY. In contrast, angiotensin II levels in the 20-week-old SHR kidneys were significantly lower than in the WKY. Acceleration of the intrarenal renin-angiotensin system and the increased density of tubular angiotensin II receptors in young SHR may therefore play an important role in the development of high blood pressure in SHR.