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Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) activity was measured by fluorimetry in the plasma, lung, heart, aorta and kidney (cortex and medulla) of 3-, 5-, 8- and 11-week-old spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and compared with that of age-matched Wistar—Kyoto rats (WKY). In the plasma, lung and kidney (cortex and medulla), ACE activity was lower in SHR than in WKY. This was evident as early as the age of 3 weeks. In contrast, there were no differences between SHR and WKY in the aorta and the heart. Age-related variations in ACE activities differed in each tissue and in both groups of rats, but no major modifications were correlated with the development of hypertension. A binding assay was performed with [3H]ramiprilat; affinity (KD) and the maximum number of binding sites (Bmax) were determined in plasma and tissues of 3-week-old SHR and WKY. The KD values were identical in the two groups but Bmax was lower in all SHR tissues except in the heart; these results might be related to the decrease in ACE activity. Our results probably reflect genetic differences in ACE activity between SHR and WKY, and suggest that ACE regulatory mechanisms act differently in each tissue.