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The mechanism by which low-calcium (Ca) diet causes hypertension is unknown. We investigated angiotensin II (Ang II) receptor binding in brain, adrenals and urinary bladders in male Sprague-Dawley rats pair-fed a low-Ca (0.005% Ca; 0.5% P) and normal- Ca (1.4% Ca) diet for 8 weeks beginning at 4 weeks of age. The Ang II receptor sites in hypothalamus-thalamus-septum (HTS), adrenal glands and urinary bladder smooth muscle were measured by saturation isotherm binding using 125l-sarcosine1isoleucine8 Ang II (125I-SI Ang II). Systolic blood pressure was determined at 2-week intervals by tailcuff method. Serum total Ca, Na +, K+ aldosterone and Ang II and bone density and mineral content were determined at the time of sacrifice. Chronic Ca deficiency in rats raised blood pressure and decreased Ang II receptor density in bladder smooth muscles and tended to increase adrenal Ang II receptors. Serum Ca, bone density and mineral content were significantly lower in the Ca-deficient rats, while serum Na+ was elevated in this group. Serum Ang II and aldosterone were unaltered after the 8-week dietary regimen. Possible mechanisms for the hypertensive actions of reduced dietary Ca intake involving the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system are discussed.