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The role of arginine vasopressin (AVP) in the development and maintenance of arterial hypertension is controversial. Furthermore, it remains unclear whether chronic treatment with antihypertensive agents modulates levels of AVP, with potential secondary effects on vascular tone and fluid homeostasis.To investigate the relation between plasma AVP and arterial blood pressure in a population-based sample of 534 middle-aged subjects.Overall, levels of AVP were higher in hypertensive subjects (2.15 ± 0.26 pg/ml; n = 289) than in normotensive subjects (1.45 ± 0.15 pg/ml; n = 245; P < 0.05). (Hypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure > 160 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure > 95 mmHg, or receiving antihypertensive medication.) In untreated individuals, plasma levels of AVP were found to be correlated with both systolic (r = 0.15, P = 0.002) and diastolic (r = 0.14, P = 0.005) blood pressure. The differences between the lowest and highest quartile of AVP levels were 5.1 mmHg (P = 0.03) and 2.6 mmHg (NS) for systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respectively, after adjustment for age and sex. Moreover, it appeared that the relation between AVP and blood pressure was particularly strong in subjects with low levels of renin (< 10 mU/l; n = 118; systolic blood pressure r = 0.24, P = 0.007; diastolic blood pressure r = 0.19, P = 0.03). Specifically, patients receiving monotherapy with diuretics (n = 39) or beta-blockers (n = 54) displayed elevated plasma levels of AVP (2.93 ± 0.98 pg/ml and 2.74 ± 0.74 pg/ml, respectively); however, only in patients taking diuretics was this finding apparently independent of confounding variables. Other monotherapies with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (n = 9) or Ca2+-antagonists (n = 19) were not associated with levels of AVP.The data suggest that plasma levels of AVP display a discernible relationship with arterial blood pressure and hypertension, particularly when renin levels are low. In addition, with the exception of diuretics, no modulation of AVP levels is attributable to the intake of antihypertensive agents as it occurs in a population-based sample.