Our objective was to compare the effect of a long-acting calcium antagonist (nisoldipine) versus an ACE inhibitor (lisinopril) on albuminuria, arterial blood pressure, and glomerular filtration rate (GFR) in hypertensive IDDM patients with diabetic nephropathy. We performed a 1-year, double- blind, double-dummy, randomized, controlled study comparing nisoldipine (20- 40 mg once daily) with lisinopril (10-20 mg once daily) in 52 hypertensive IDDM subjects with diabetic nephropathy. Three patients dropped out, and results for the remaining 49 (25 nisoldipine, 24 lisinopril) are presented. Diuretics were required in 10 nisoldipine- and 8 lisinopril-treated patients. Every 3 months, 24-h ambulatory blood pressure (TM2420, A and D, Tokyo, Japan) and albuminuria in three 24-h samples (enzyme immunoassay) were measured; GFR (51Cr-EDTA plasma clearance) was recorded every 6 months. Mean arterial blood pressure (24 h) was reduced from (mean ± SE) 108 ± 3 mmHg at baseline to 101 ± 2 in average during treatment in the lisinopril group and from 105 ± 2 to 103 ± 2 in the nisoidipine group (P = 0.06 comparing changes in the two groups). Albuminuria was reduced 47% (95% CI 21- 65) in the lisinopril group versus an increase of 11% (-3 to 27) in the nisoldipine group (P = 0.001). Fractional albumin clearance was reduced 37% (95% CI 4-59%) in the lisinopril versus an increase of 35% (8-69%) in the nisoldipine group (P < 0.01). GFR decreased from 85 ± 5 ml · min-1 · 1.73 m-2 to 73 ± 5 in the lisinopril group and from 84 ± 6 to 80 ± 7 in the nisoldipine group (P < 0.05). The effect of study medication on albuminuria and GFR was independent of changes in systemic blood pressure and baseline variables in multiple regression analyses. In summary, lisinopril reduced albuminuria, but also GFR, to a greater extent than did nisoldipine in hypertensive IDDM patients with diabetic nephropathy during the 1st year of treatment. Longer follow-up is required to clarify whether these drugs have different renoprotective effects.