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To determine the effects of hydronephrosis on glomerular number and juxtaglomerular cell synthetic activity and the protective influence of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibition.A comparison of sham and contralateral kidneys with 8-week ipsilateral ureteral ligated hydronephrotic kidneys in BALB/c mice. Enalapril was administered from 5 weeks in additional sham and hydronephrotic kidney groups.Renin and prorenin immunohistochemistry was applied to sections of perfusion-fixed kidneys at the light and electron microscope level. Glomerular number was estimated by a physical disector-fractionator stereological method. An enzyme kinetic renin assay was performed in kidney tissue and plasma.Glomerular number in hydronephrotic kidneys decreased significantly compared with sham and contralateral kidneys. Renin content in hydronephrotic kidneys did not change compared with sham or contralateral kidneys, but the renin content in the glomerulus was significantly greater in hydronephrotic than in contralateral kidneys and similar to in sham kidneys. Contralateral kidneys enlarged significantly and their total renin content decreased significantly compared with hydronephrotic and sham kidneys. Plasma renin was unchanged. Fewer juxtaglomerular cells were labelled for renin and prorenin in contralateral than in hydronephrotic or sham kidneys. Granulopoiesis and exocytotic profiles were markedly greater in hydronephrotic than in contralateral or sham kidneys. Following enalapril, glomerular number was significantly higher in hydronephrotic kidneys and renin content increased proportionally more in contralateral than in hydronephrotic or sham kidneys.Hydronephrosis for 8 weeks results in atrophy of 50% of glomeruli and exerts an inhibitory influence on contralateral juxtaglomerular cells while augmenting ipsilateral renin production per remaining glomerulus with maintenance of plasma renin. Enalapril preserves glomeruli and reverses the contralateral inhibitory influence, suggesting an angiotensin-related mechanism.